Icon array


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 colour) to represent a proportion.

For example, 63% would be displayed by colouring 63 squares out of 100 in an icon array a bright colour while the other 37 squares remain grey. 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 method

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 colour, 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 method

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 (service-user, home-owner etc.).


Other ways to see the parts of a whole

'Icon array' is referenced in: