Tutorials  / 

How to Make Frequency Trails in R

Also known as ridgeline plots, the method overlaps time series for a 3-D-ish view of the data. While perhaps not the most visually efficient, the allure is undeniable.

Frequency trails have been around for a few decades but only recently became more popular. It hit peak popularity in 2017 when Henrik Lindberg posted a chart that showed sports participation by time of day.

They’re essentially just overlapping time series charts, but there is something about the overlap that makes the data feel for visually intriguing. More approachable?

I’ll let you decide what to do with them.

In this tutorial, you reproduce a simplified version of the frequency trails I used to show comment activity over time.

To access this full tutorial and download the source code you must be a member. (If you are already a member, log in here.)


Gain unlimited access to hundreds of hours worth of step-by-step visualization courses and tutorials for insight and presentation — all while supporting an independent site. Source code and data is included so that you can more easily apply what you learn in your own work.

The tutorials are very helpful to move from "Oooo, cool!" to how to actually DO the cool.

Members also recieve a weekly newsletter, The Process, which looks more closely at the tools, the rules, and the guidelines and how they work in practice.

See samples of everything you gain access to:

About the Author

Nathan Yau is a statistician who works primarily with visualization. He earned his PhD in statistics from UCLA, is the author of two best-selling books — Data Points and Visualize This — and runs FlowingData. Introvert. Likes food. Likes beer.