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How to Make Alluvial Diagrams

Here’s how to do it in R from start to finish, plus editing in illustration software. Make design choices and trade-offs for more readable charts.

An alluvial diagram is a type of flow chart that is useful to show change over time. You see how individual categories and how the composition of the categories shift.

Incorporate ranking into the mix at each time segment, and you get a good idea of how order changes over time too. The geometry is like a combination of a stacked bar chart and a bump chart.

In this tutorial, I describe not only how to make a basic chart, but how you get from raw data all the way through the design process, to clear and readable graphics, and to the finished project.

Chart generation is the easy part. Everything before and after is what makes the charts better.

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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.