I remember how a couple of years ago we used to play the board game ‘Settlers of Catan’ for hours and hours… I never got ’round to trying the computer game though.

Now I was reminded of these times by a Sankey diagram “showing the resource chains in Settlers 2” that I found on flickr.

Brandel Zachernuk (go to ‘The Desk of Brendel Zachernuk’), who was so kind to give me permission to show his work of art here on the blog, wrote:

I only recently discovered the style of diagram as an approach and was quite surprised they aren’t more frequently used to explain resource flows.
I know that my diagram isn’t strictly a Sankey diagram because the width of the lines doesn’t correspond to anything …

Still, this is a lovely one, and it merits to be presented here! I admire the chain of developments men seems to have to go through: from water and fish and meat (hey, why no beer?) to nourishing people who produce iron ore, coal, tools, and eventually weapons. Some call it technological progress, others unsustainable use of natural ressources.

In early November I was pointed to an image on the Innovation Strategy Canada website [the website itself is not accessible any more] by a reader of this blog. Peter asked whether I know of any Sankey diagrams for financial flows, like they are shown in the one below.

The diagram visualizes the sources of R&D funding, and the institutions receiveing this funds. Data is from Statistics Canada for 2006 and shown in Mio (supposedly) Canadian Dollars.

While there are only four different arrow widths to show the financial flows, the interesting thing is that the sums of funds from each source and received by each beneficiary are shown as cylinders (database symbols, tanks, …).

I quickly did several versions of the diagram, but was not too happy with the results. The flow quantities are OK, but as it turns out, it is difficult to see the volume of the cylinder, supposedly to scale with the sums. This information is redundant anyway, since the width of the joined arrows at their base or at their head is exactly the sum that is supposedly to be shown by the cylinder volume.

Here is one version of my Sankey diagram for R&D funding in Canada for 2006 based on the original image. I decided to make the boxes in different sizes (the problem remains the same: can one immediately grasp the area of each box).

Your comments are welcomed. Is there a better way to display the sums?