Small Multiples in Power BI


I have been spending the past few months getting more familiar with Power BI.  There is a lot of information available, but it is sometimes hard to find exactly what I am looking for.  As I have been creating reports and visualizations in Power BI, one thing I have been missing is “small multiples”.  For those that are not familiar with the term “small multiples”, it is sometimes called a trellis chart, lattice chart, grid chart or panel chart.  It is a series of similar charts using the same scale and axes, allowing them to easily be compared.  The advantage is that it uses multiple views to show different dimensions of the dataset.

This is a visualization many other tools have, but until yesterday I have not been able to create them in Power BI.  As I mentioned there is a lot of information available for Power BI, and there are also a lot of custom visualizations available.  I had looked in the Office Store before, and I had searched small multiples, but with no success.  Yesterday I was watching one of the many Power BI videos available one YouTube.  It was Take Power BI Visualization to the Next Level by Reza Rad.  In this video he highlighted the custom visual, Infographic Designer.  This is a free custom visualization available in the Office Store, provided by Microsoft.  It is a very unique visualization that allows you to create highly tailored visualization for your specific topic.  I can see the possibility to create some really compelling dashboards with this visualization, but one of the possibly hidden features of this visualization is you can use it to simply create “small multiples” for column, bar or line charts.

To better understand how you might use this functionality, let’s take a look at an example.  You have been tasked with creating a chart to analyze your sales by product category over the last three years in each of your geographical markets.  With this example you have one value, sales amount and three dimensions, product category, geographic market and year.  There are many different ways you might approach this task.  One approach might be to create a clustered bar chart showing sales amount by product category by year.  However, this does not show the geographic markets.  
So you might add a slicer to this chart or you could add a filter for the geographic market.  Then you could make two more charts, changing the filters to create your own version of small multiples.  This might accomplish the task, but it is difficult to read, especially if you want to compare 2012 Asia cell phone sales to 2012 North America cell phone sales. 
This is where using small multiples with the Infographic Designer can help.

Before you get started you will need to go to the Office Store and download the custom visual.  Once you have downloaded it, simply import it into Power BI Desktop and it is ready to use.  You will see a new icon available in your list of visualizations.
 
Select the Infographic Designer visualization and you will see there are four areas for your data fields.  Category, Measure, Column by and Row by.

Column by and Row by allow you to quickly create small multiples, so the fields you drag here will determine how your rows and columns are configured.   On the format tab, you can set the layout of the small multiples, the fonts and select the chart type you want to use.  In just a matter of a minute or two you can quickly create your multiple charts allowing you to easily analyze your sales between years, categories and markets.


This is just the beginning of what is possible with this visualization.  Download it and give it a try.  I am looking forward to working more with it and hope to share more information soon.



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