We each have our own preferences when choosing a chart type and often these evolve over the course of a career. The various strategy consulting firms are known to have favored chart types. McKinsey has a love for the cascade chart and Bain is the land of the marimekko. I’m a former Bainie so the marimekko holds a special place in my charting arsenal. The marimekko is, of course, the more well-known member of the mekko family, but I’ve started gravitating more to the bar mekko because it has so many more use cases. I’m a big fan of the bar mekko and I think you will be too when you see how versatile and powerful it can be.
A bar mekko is a variable width bar chart so you should consider using it the next time you create a bar chart. If your presentation is filled with slide after slide of bar charts, mix it up by combining the data that may have been shown in two bar charts into a single, more compelling chart.
Here’s an example of how a bar chart can be transformed into a bar mekko.
In this bar chart, you can compare the growth rates by competitor in China’s smartphone market. But, the likely follow-on question after viewing this chart is “How big is each competitor”, specifically how big is the “Other” segment that is declining. Without this information, the reader can only assume that it must be somewhat large given the low total market growth of 2.5%.
Now, here’s the chart as a bar mekko.
Adding a volume measure, shipment volume in this case, allows you to see that the smartphone market in China is still quite fragmented since the “Other” segment is 41% of the market. I sorted the bars based on growth rate.
I also added data rows to the chart. The first, market share, shows the reader what determines the width of each bar. Tip: It improves the reader’s comprehension when you show the data that is used for the bar width as a data row.
The second data row, average selling price, helps you answer the question “Are the lower priced phones growing faster or slower than those with higher price points?”
The bar mekko has become my favorite chart type because it can make such a strong impression. It’s easier for the reader to grasp the impact of differences between segments, products, countries or competitors when shown in a bar mekko than when they are shown in multiple charts or displayed in a data row in a bar chart. Here are more examples of how you can use a bar mekko.
If you’re tired of relying too heavily on bar charts, give the bar mekko a try. To see more bar mekko examples, please visit the chart gallery.