In a post on the winners of the SND 31 competition over at the Infographics News Blog I found the below diagram on the President’s Budget. Originally published by the Washington Post it has won an Award of Excellence in the 31st edition of the Society of News Design contest in the Infographics / Breaking News section.

It is not really a Sankey diagram, since the arrows are not explicitly directed. But it has weighted arrows/bands, in this case representing $$$. This infographic was maybe inspired by this one from Spain that was – after lengthy discussion – named a “distribution diagram”.

I cropped the lower part of the infographic that had details on the deficit as bar chart. See original, full infographic file here.

Two more infographics in this post have characteristics of Sankey diagrams, and I might post them here on the Sankey Diagrams blog, if I run out of ideas one day…

A tiny example, but fun to see: income statement, apparently for a webhosting company. Operational Expenses (OPEX) in light blue, cost of goods sold (COGS) in light brown, net income in green. No currency given, I think this is just to convey the idea of “money flows” and to give an idea how data can be presented other than in tables.

This is from a post called “5 exciting alternatives to boring power points” at Speaking Power Point.

The detail shows though that even if Sankey diagrams are “sexier” than tables, you still need to pay attention to the details when drawing them. This one was apparently made in Power Point by joining shapes and arrows. Which wasn’t all that successful in some places, as the detail shows. Would have been better to use a Sankey diagram software.

I am aware that I was kind of ‘Sankey diagram bashing’ with my post on Spain energy flow diagram last December. Now here is another one from the Iberian penninsula that fully makes up for the first one. It is by Observatorio sobre Energía y Desarrollo Sostenible (Observatory of Energy and Sustainability in Spain) at the Universidad Pontifícia Comillas in Madrid. I find it noteworthy that the observatory is part of a BP financed chair at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería (ICAI).

The annual report 2010 includes three Sankey diagrams, two of which are shown below. The first Sankey diagram (p. 16 of the report) has the typical pattern of a ‘national energy consumption, conversion and use’ diagram, similar to the ones presented here on the blog several times already for other countries.

The flows from the left show energy sources, the nodes on the right are the use sectors. A nice feature here is that the node heights are adapted to the magnitude of the Sankey arrow, so that the largest energy consumption can immediately be seen. Flows are in in Exajoule (1 EJ = 1000 Petajoule = 10E18 J). The total primary energy consumption in Spain in 2009 was 5.86 EJ (4.95 EJ of which are from imported fuels). Also shown next to the absolute quantities is the relative share of each flow in percent, and the change in comparison to the previous year.

The second Sankey diagram (p.22) is what I would call a value stream Sankey diagram.

This is interesting as the market price for the fuels, as well as for converted energy is used as a weighting factor, so that each Sankey arrow shows the value of the energy flow in millions of Euro. At some nodes you can see that a smaller arrow enters, and a wider arrow leaves: These are the conversion processes where value is added (or energy gets more expensive). This is a compelling concept for a Sankey diagram (another similar example is here), one that somehow could make Sankey diagrams more interesting for economists or controllers, rather than considering them exclusively in the engineering domain.

The third diagram (not shown here, p. 19 in the report) shows the embodied carbon or the greenhouse gas emissions related to the different fuels, broken down by fuel and sector of energy consumption. The embodied carbon in the energy carriers were roughly 285 Mtons in 2009. The Sankey arrows for renewable energy sources as well as for Uranium are not present in the third diagram.

Me gustan mucho estas tres diagramas de Sankey! Merecen elogío.

I recently discovered Trefis and their Sankey-style diagrams as a visualization. Trefis models are used to determine the target stock price for companies, by looking at their product portfolios and playing around with the expected growth rates and market shares. Well, there is a whole model behind these interactive graphics, but the interesting part is that the share of the companies turnover is broken down by products, and is shown with proportional Sankey-like arrow magnitudes.

At the tip of the joint arrow head you can see the target share price, which is calculated as “the result of mathematically combining all of our forecasts for a company into a single number representing the per share value of the company.” When playing around with the parameters, this value will adapt accordingly.

Here are some examples:



Forbes, techCrunch and the New York Times all reported about what the latter calls “America’s Next Top Stock Model”, but none of the mentioned Sankey diagrams though.

Have fun playing around with the models … they have fancy Web2.0-silverlightish animations too. But don’t blame me if the share doesn’t reach the forecasted price 😉

kulturometer.org presented a fantastic diagram that shows the municipality of Madrid’s spendings in cultural activities in 2009. By compiling data from numerous tables, tender calls, and administrative bulletins, they managed to stunningly visualize what one commenter called an ‘information overload’ (‘apagón informativo’). Click on the diagram to enlarge.

This is a breakdown diagram, or ‘diagrama de brazos’, that shows the distribution of the overall cultural budget (182 Mio Euros in 2009) by sectors, sub-sectors, and even into individual types of activities or projects.

It somewhat reminds me of Nicholas Rapp’s AIG bailout diagram, even though less colorful…

Each branch of the diagram is labeled with the relative weight in percent, as well as the absolute value in millions of Euros. The color scale indicates the reliability of the data, either non detailed estimate (light grey), published estimate (grey), or published budgeted data (black).

Here is the full diagram in large scale (PDF) with an additional breakdown of one particular section (Medialab) at another scale and full legend and annotations
Watch a slide show to learn more about the diagram (starting p 19)
– And finally, a blowup detail of a diagram section:

The Visio Guy had another cool Sankey diagram on his blog last week. Credits go to Chris Webb of Woodland Trust, who created this using the line thickness option rather than pre-wired shapes.

The diagram has a left-to-right orientation and shows the different sources of money received by the trust. The types of funds (e.g. grants, legacies, direct marketing) are grouped together by colors. Flows have percentile values, rather than absolute ones. I am not sure what the boxes labeled “Sys” are, but the colors change. All flows merge into the box “Finance” which has a subgroup “Sales Ledger”.

The flow bands between most of the nodes have a nice soft curving. This is why some people do refer to Sankey diagrams as spaghetti diagrams.

If you are using Visio, you can download this diagram and look how it has been done. Nice work! I hope to see more of these Sankey diagrams done in Visio….

Following yesterday’s post with the translation of a blog post by Chiqui Esteban from infografistas.com 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!

Chiqui Esteban who runs the Spanish blog infografistas.com had two posts back in March/April about a discussion he had with his colleague Xocas on how to name Sankey diagrams. Or, to be more precise: how a certain type of diagram that is more and more used in infographics should be named correctly.

They are absolutely funny, so I am trying to give you a translation of these two blog posts. This is part 1 for a post from March 17 titled “Gráficos de erogación”. I left some words in Spanish and my comments in square brackets.

— translation start —

Distribution Graphics

A couple of months ago, Xocas and I discussed via GTalk what the name, or what should be the name of the diagrams with the little arms [‘gráficos de bracitos’]. As it turned out, the winner name was volume flow graphics [‘gráfico de caudales’].

Today, we decided to withdraw our proposal and we are going to call them ‘distribution graphics’ instead [‘gráficos de erogación’].

This is because of the coffee. The coffee machine of my new employer www.lainformacion.com (click the link, we are already up running), shows the message ‘distributing’ [‘erogando’] while you wait for your cup to be filled. Looking in the RAE [note: Real Academia Española], the verb ‘erogar’ is defined as:

(Del lat. erogāre).

1. tr. Distribuir, repartir bienes o caudales. [distribute, share the goods or funds]
2. tr. Méx. y Ven. Gastar el dinero. [México and Venezuela: spend money]

This definition is spot on. So we shouldn’t continue to call them ‘little arms’ [‘de bracitos’], ‘tubing’ [‘de tubería’], ‘squid’ [‘de pulpo’], ‘tree-roots’ [‘raíces’] or whatever diagrams any more. But don’t say that we didn’t work hard in finding the correct nomenclature. As we have to do. So Tufte will… [‘A Tuftear’].

— translation end —

The accompanying Sankey diagram apparently is from the New York Times and shows how 21.4 billion $ in federal aid for NYC after 9/11 were distributed (hey! there you are, a ‘distribution diagram’ 😉 ). Funny enough, the caption says: “The figure above is an attempt to bring sources of funds together and show how they add up (sic!) to $ 21.3 billion”.

So what is distribution for one, is “adding up” from another perspective.

Part 2, the translation of “Caudales, erogación… ¿flujo?” and a summary of the comments to follow.

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!