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A Sankey Diagram or chart is a visualization technique that displays the flow rates. In this visual representation of the flow involved in a process, the width of the arrow is proportional to the flow rate. It is predominantly used as a visualizing mode for energy and material transfers involved in a process of a system. Thus, Sankey Diagrams show the flow of resources. Keep reading the article to know everything you need to know about a Sankey Diagram.

Sankey Diagram: An Overview

Sankey Diagram is a great data visualization method first drawn by an Irish engineer, Captain Matthew H.R. Sankey. This is where the diagram got its name from. He used this diagram to compare the energy of the steam engines. Before this, this type of diagram was also used by French engineer to visualize Napolean’s Russian Campaign.

Later, in the twentieth century, Austrian mechanical engineers used this diagram to view the power and energy losses of passenger cars. So, it is evident that Sankey diagrams have been used for ages. Today, the same diagrams are used to visualize data and keep track of the flow involved in a business process. But, why should one use Sankey diagram in the first place?

Why Use Sankey Diagram?

Data visualization is the best way to simplify the complex data and understand the relationship between the data elements. Sankey diagrams simply go beyond pie charts or bar graphs and help you convey additional information. They emphasis on the major flows or transfers in a system, helping you illustrate which flows are advantageous and which ones are causing waste or emissions.

In these flow diagrams, the width of lines related to different nodes is proportional to the KPIs. It provides the user with flexibility and chance to get insights into the data quickly. So, why should you use a Sankey diagram? Below are the reasons-

Fosters Better Communication

One of the most significant reasons why Sankey diagrams are good is that it offers easier communication of the energy flow processes involved in a system. It provides you with real-time knowledge of the data and helps you get better insights.

Helps You Detect Inconsistencies Quickly

When you represent the data through a flow diagram, you understand the loopholes or inconsistencies involved in the processes better. You can detect the issues and eliminate the shortcomings in the process before they turn into something worse.

Offers Better Outreach

Stankey diagram can accommodate several applications and processes easily. Thus, if you get stuck in an application that requires better diagrams, you need not worry. Sankey diagrams provide you with a better outreach.

Furthermore, when we compare a Sankey diagram to the conventional charts, like pie chart or flow chart, Sankey is more suitable for visualizing energy flow.

  • Larger the width of an arrow, larger the energy or material flow. Thus, it directs the viewer’s attention towards the most crucial flows.
  • The arrows in a Sankey diagram show flows from one node to the other. This feature makes Sankeys ideal value chains, because you can’t do so with pie or graph charts.
  • You can communicate your message with your team, customers, or partners more effectively and interactively.

What Are The Marketing Benefits Of Using A Sankey Diagram?

Data analytics is a key component of the digital landscape for marketing success. However, just collecting data on your customers’ behavior isn’t enough. You should also be able to analyze it to take an action. With Sankey diagram, marketers can perform analysis more easily and make smart marketing decisions.

Below is how a Sankey diagram helps marketers-

No Need Of A Lot Of Data

In order to create a Sankey diagram, all you need is a metric and two dimensions.

Get A Clear Picture Of A Customer’s Journey

In PPC advertising, it is crucial to know where your traffic is coming from. In a Sankey diagram, you can easily see how different values transition from one category to the other.

Offers Quick Insights

Saanky diagram can visualize the user flows from one dimension to the next, which provides the marketers with an overview of how their Ads are performing.

Now that you know the reasons for using a Sankey diagram and benefits of using it, let’s discuss how to use it.

How To Use A Sankey Diagram?

When it comes to using a Sankey diagram, there are two main aspects of using, i.e., Node and Link. In this type of chart, nodes are like a bar in a bar chart. The height of the bar denotes the value. The connection between the nodes is called a link, which indicates the flow.

The directed flow is drawn between at least two nodes, i.e., processes. Flow in the Sankey diagram shows energy, money, materials, etc. They also have arrows whose width is proportional to the quantity of the flow. Apart from the flow values, these diagrams also tell you about the structure or distribution of the process.

This makes them a great alternative to the conventional chart types. As a result, they are gaining a wide popularity in process engineering, energy management, or other industries where data visualization is necessary.

However, poorly drawn Sankey diagrams can hide the actionable insights instead of highlighting them. Consequently, they may appear more complex and difficult for the audience to understand. So, get clear on the purpose of creating a Sankey diagram first and then design it.


Sankey diagram is a great tool for visualizing data. But, it is crucial to limit your data analysis to multiple single sessions. If you add too much data to the chart, it will become unreadable. By putting this tool to the right use, you can easily visualize a variety of processes, like material flows within economic sectors, cash flow analysis in business organizations, energy losses of a machine, and more. You can add you own visual graphics to these diagrams to make them more interactive. These interactive visuals give better information and result in more effective data visualization.

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