Waffle charts display part-to-whole patterns. They’re kind of like square versions of pie charts. I introduced them in an earlier post about visualizing survey results. Look familiar?

Finally, I built four square pies that draw attention to the strongly agree and agree responses. Square pies are a good option for small n's because each shape subtly reminds us that we're talking about a small group of real human beings. You could take this concept a step further by using illustrated icons instead of squares. But good luck finding an icon to represent feeling connected to a museum or having your voice valued...

 

Here’s how to make waffle charts within good ol’ Excel.

The first few steps are a little unexpected. We’ve got to fool Excel into making a 10×10 grid. You’ll have to trust me on this first step. It’ll look crazy at first, but it’ll make sense in a moment. Type a bunch of 1’s into your spreadsheet—10 across and 10 down.

 

Then, highlight your 1’s, go to the Insert tab, and select a 2D stacked bar chart. You can use a stacked bar chart (horizontal) or a stacked column chart (vertical). The end result will be the same either way. The waffle chart is there! Well, kind of. It’s hiding behind a bunch of clutter. Let’s adjust the scale and then delete, delete, delete.

 

Adjust the vertical axis so that it stretches from 0 to 10 (rather than 0 to 12). To adjust the axis’ scale, first click on any of the numbers. For instance, you could hold your cursor directly over the 6, the 8, or the 10. You’ll see a rectangle appear around the outside of the numbers. Then, right-click, and select the option at the very bottom of the pop-up window, which is called Format Axis. Adjust the maximum bound from 12 to 10.

 

Now, the vertical axis only goes to 10—good. (Otherwise, our final product would’ve had some weird white space.)

 

Delete the title, legend, and scales. Remove the border and grid lines.

 

Reduce the gap width all the way down to 0%. This is your computer’s funny name for the space between the columns or bars. Follow my tutorial if this technique is new for you. The result is a big blob.

 

Modernize your visual with light gray fills and white outlines. Can you see the waffle?!

Modernize your blog with light gray fills and white outlines. Can you see the waffle?!

 

Fill in a few shapes with your darker action color. For example, you would fill in 57 of the 100 squares to represent 57 percent of people.

Fill in a few shapes with your darker action color. For example, you would fill in 57 of the 100 squares to represent 100 percent of people.

 

Finally, make sure your graph is a square (not a rectangle). No eyeballing. Activate your graph by clicking on the outside border. Then, go to the Format tab and look for the Size section. In this example, I set my chart to be 3 inches by 3 inches. This is a nice size for Word documents. You could place two 3-by-3 waffle charts beside each other on the paper. You’ll need larger waffles for your slide deck of course.

Finally, make sure your graph is a square (not a rectangle). No eyeballing. Activate your graph by clicking on the outside border. Then, go to the Format tab and look for the Size section. In this example, I set my chart to be 3 inches by 3 inches. This is a nice size for Word documents. You could place two 3-by-3 waffle charts beside each other on the paper.


Purchase the template ($5)

 

An alternate solution is to use conditional formatting instead of a stacked bar chart. I demo the process here:

 

 

Have you used these stacked-bars-disguised-as-waffles in your own work? If so, please link to your document in the comments.