An icon array is a display in which one shape is repeated a specific number of times (usually 10, 100 or 1,000) and then some of the shapes are altered in some way (usually by color) to represent a proportion. For example, 63% would be displayed by coloring 63 squares out of 100 in an icon array a bright color while the other 37 squares remain gray. Icon arrays are typically very easy to interpret.
Percentage of non-profit evaluations done by non-professionals
In this example from Jody Fitzpatrick’s AEA Presidential Keynote speech, 62% is represented by adding a blue colour to 62 out of 100 of the circles.
Source: designed by Stephanie Evergreen. Full slidedeck available here: http://comm.eval.org/communities/resources/viewdocument/?DocumentKey=88c06b78-e483-44ba-8fdd-0fc40fcf139e
Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)
Precise numbers require larger icon arrays, such as a set of 100 icons. Smaller sets, like 10 icons, make it difficult to show something like 63% because roughly one-third of one icon would have to be filled in with color, which muddies interpretation ability.
Icon arrays can become too complicated when too many proportions are represented at once. Usually one icon array represents just one number. More could be included, but use judgement about when it is too cluttered to be interpretable.
Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)
Choose a simple icon to repeat, such as a square or a circle. Infographics often use little people icons, which tend to represent a certain demographic (able-bodied, thin, etc.).
IconArray.com: This website helps you build an icon array by entering in your proportions, choosing an icon type, and selecting a color.
Other ways to see the parts of a whole
Illustrating proportion through a circular chart divided into sectors (like slices of a pie).
Making use of qualitative information in the form of important distinctions or differences that people see in the world around them. They help overcome some of the problems that may be encountered when dealing with qualitative information.