While scanning the longlist of the 2016 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards, I was struck by the relatively large number of nominees that incorporated small multiples—39 out of 313, excluding the “Dataviz Website” and “Dataviz Project” categories. As I’ve said before (and will say again) small multiples are one of my favorite visualization techniques.
Edward Tufte coined the term and defined small multiples in his 1983 book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information:
Small multiples resemble the frames of a movie: a series of graphics, showing the same combination of variables, indexed by changes in another variable.
Small multiples allow rapid and relatively accurate comparisons between multiple data points (a key part of the technique is to consistently use the same scale) , display of more than three dimensions of data, and (at best) show cause and effect relationships. They also look great:
The variety of implementations is impressive—a repeated sequence of maps (-ach, -ingen, -zell), abstract heatmaps (Punctation in Novels), adding color to a parallel coordinate plot (Collective Craving), a series of histograms embeded in a timeline (Top 15 Sleeping Beauties), and straightforward illustration (Mid-Engine Super Cars).
Congratulations to the nominees!