Back in May 2013 I had reported about the ‘4see model’ developed by ARUP. The model is used to visualize certain data characterizing an economy, such as value streams, jobs or energy.

Browsing for new Sankey diagrams I came across 4see again, this time in an INSEAD Faculty & Research Working Paper titled ‘The 4see Framework: Characterizing an Economy by its Socio-economic and Energy Activities’ by Roberts (2013).

The model is explained in detail and the report features a number of beautiful diagrams. Here is one of them:

I chose to present this one on financial flows over the others (on transport, energy, employment), since it has some very distinct features.

In the core of the diagram is the balance of payments. The lower part of the diagram (within the frame) has trade flows (i.e. imports to the UK on the left side, exports from the UK on the right side). Interestingly, since this is meant to depict monetary flows, the direction of the arrows is inverted: goods-receiving countries have liabilities, so the flow is from right to-left (upstream). Same holds true for the UK that has to pay for its imports.

The elements in the dotted line rectangles and the linking flows are non-trade items (i.e. the financial system), some of the within the UK, others foreign. Make sure to read the description below figure 8 on page 16 of the report if you want to learn more.

Data is for the year 2010. The key below the diagram shows the default width of a stream representing ‘£100b[2010]/y’, which I read as ‘100 billion British Pounds normalized to base year 2010 per year’. No actual numbers given for each flow, but the different types of monetary flows in relation to each other and their rough dimensions permit to interpret the diagram.

My favourite Sankey diagram in 2015, so far.

Following up to yesterdays post on the supply chain visualization by TRUTHstudio. Imagine the concept described for the meat production sector blown up to cover the all sectors of the U.S. economy, and showing all the links between these sectors. There you are: Economy Maps, “an interactive visual map of the United States economy and its environmental impacts” by Jason Pearson.

In the first version the economy maps covered 24 major sector groups, and were apparently “static”. However, they already were beautifully designed Sankey-style maps of the environmental impacts caused directly or indirectly by these sectors of the economy.

Here is an image from that first edition of Economy Maps:

Jason comments: “The CEDA database (from which Economy Map derives its data) was developed by Dr Sangwon Suh at UC Santa Barbara, and that image … was actually an illustration for an academic article by Dr Suh.”

Development has continued and today in Economy Maps 2.0 beta is available as a fully interactive browser based Java application or a downloadable file for Mac or Win. It allows to view the environmental impact for several categories (such as global warming protential, ozone depletion, acidification, land use, freshwater aquatic exotoxicity potential and so on). Each diagram is presented in a different color but with the same structure: The first column are the goods obtained from the different sectors. The middle column contains all sectors that have an exchange of goods. The right column represents the consumers, both private and governmental. For each impact category users can visually grasp the relative contribution of each sector to an environmental impact category represented by the width of the band. Each sector is profiled according to three distinct perspectives on environmental impact as explained in yesterday’s post.

I have included a video of Jason explaining the economy maps below, it is wortwhile watching to fully understand the details.

The diagrams are based on statistical financial data and makes use of the economic input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) method. “Financial data are drawn from ‘use’ tables published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) at the US Department of Commerce. Environmental data are drawn from Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead, a report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). The report includes an economy-wide study that identifies the relative contribution of each industrial sector to major environmental categories. The study makes use of output from the CEDA 3.0 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Economic Input/Output (EIO) database”.

It should be noted that there are a lot of assumptions built into the methodologies used to calculate environmental impacts, and some of these methodologies are quite controversial. Also, the data is from 1997, and financial interaction between the sectors has most likely changed since. According to the author, Economy Maps at present should be considered a prototype, and users “should be careful in relying on Economy Maps for ‘answers’ at this point…”

Users can pull the nodes of the middle column apart and sort them in order to untangle the spaghetti and get a clearer picture of the economic interactions between the sectors and their associated direct and indirect environmental impacts in the different categories. The height of the economy sector node represents the magnitude of the environmental impact, the font size of the node name corresponds to the node size. The nodes move with a nice soft scroll effect as we love it. Try the online version of Economy Maps 2.0 or download the desktop version.

Economy Maps are “work in progress” and we can expect updates as data for more recent years become available.

Here is the 60 second video of Jason explaining the Economy Maps. For a longer video visit

Following yesterday’s post with the translation of a blog post by Chiqui Esteban from here is the translation of the post “Caudales, erogación… ¿flujo?” of April 5, 2009. Again, I left some words in Spanish in square brackets.

— translation start —

Volume flow, distribution… flux?

A new chapter in the discussion [polémica] about the ‘scientific’ name of the “little arms” graphics [‘gráficos de bracitos’].

Xocas came up with the name ‘volume flow’ diagrams [‘gráficos de caudales’] and my vote was for ‘distribution diagram’. Other suggestions were thrown in: Xoán G. made reference to Minard and his ‘capacity diagram’ [‘gráfico de aforo’]. Herminio J. Fernández voted for cosmography diagrams [‘cosmografías’] as refered to by Stovall [Infographics by James Glenn Stovall, Allyn&Bacon, Massachussetts, 1997]. Many others voted for ‘flow diagrams’ [‘gráficos de flujo’], although Xocas discarded this suggestion because “the term flow diagram normally refers to a very specific type of visualization of process [flows]. It could be used as a generic term, but has interference with another model”.

Now, there is a new player in our conversation. It is Mario Tascón, who also believes that the correct denomination is ‘flow diagrams’. His justification:
“According to Harris (Information Graphics) and Bruce Robertson (How to make Charts and Diagrams) these graphics are called flow diagrams, and are of the type in the same category which are used as decision diagrams in informatics [computer science]. The latter are more in fashion now [Por motivos de modas], but the former have always [sic!] existed (a historic example is the one of Napoleons troops)”.

Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

— translation end —

I hope I got it more or less correct. It is not easy to find the right translation for the sometimes subtle differences between the terms. For those of you who can read Spanish, please check out the original post and the full discussion thread on Xocas’ blog.

The post is decorated with this beautiful Sankey diagram.

It shows the main earnings and spendings of Spain in 2008 and was produced by Jorge Doneiger and Álvaro Valiño for the daily newspaper Publico in 2007. Values are in million Euros. Flows are not always to scale as for as I can see: the ‘impuestos especiales’ in dark black and the ‘deuda pública’ (at the bottom on the right side) are examples.

The top part shows the sources of funding, the bottom part the beneficiary sectors. The fact that the stacked width in the middle is wider than that of the funds distributed suggests that the Spanish state is actually piling up its money, but probably this has to do either with the list of recipients not being complete, or with earnings received in 2008 but not distributed in the same year.

The hand with the coin supports Chiqui Esteban’s vote for naming it a ‘distribution diagram’. Toss a coin in the coffee dispenser and wait for your coffee to be poured… errh, did we have ‘dispenser diagram’ already? 😉

I save the ‘best of comments’ and my reasoning why I still call them Sankey diagrams for another time…

Note (Aug 19): A case of DYRF, do your research first! I just detected that Chiqui himself has an English version of his article here. So, now you got the choice between two versions!