Stacked Bar Chart with Shading

Using Color and Shading to Group Elements in Your Charts

I like to use 100% stacked bar charts with a single bar.  They are an alternative to a pie chart to display how a measure (e.g., revenue or costs) splits into key categories.  You might use it to display:

  • which channels made up your revenue for the last year.
  • which expense categories make up the projected total cost savings?

There was a good example of a single bar 100% stacked bar chart in the BCG study of the Philadelphia schools that I discussed in my last post.

stacked bar chart

BCG notes that closing a school lead to about $800,000 in annual savings.  The savings can be broken into six broad categories--facilities work orders, utilities, building support, school admin support, pupil support, and instructional support.  These six categories can be further grouped into facilities savings and instructional savings.  Note that color is used to aid in viewing the grouping.  The facilities savings are in shades of green and the instructional savings in shades of blue.

Next time you need to categorize cost savings or revenue try using a single 100% stacked bar chart with a single bar.  It works well if you can break down your key measure into 5-8 categories.  Use two color shading (or even three color shading) to group the categories.  Keep checking this blog for tricks when there are more categories that can be displayed in a single bar.