An Introduction to Marimekko, a Chart of Many Colors and Many Names

By Guest Author 23 Ago, 2016

Note: The following is the first installment of a three-part series on the Marimekko chart by Tableau Zen Master Jonathan Drummey. Tableau 10 gives you precise control over the width of your bars, enabling this new chart type.

The Marimekko design firm of Helsinki, Finland exemplified the exuberant and colorful design style of the 1960s. The firm’s vivid fabrics and furnishings were a favorite among the decade’s bold and beautiful. In 1960, Jackie Kennedy campaigned for her husband, John, in Marimekko dresses. The Marimekko style remains popular to this day in design and, you may be surprised to learn, in data visualization.

A Marimekko chart is a two-dimensional stacked chart of stacked, contiguous bars—looking somewhat like a Marimekko fabric. Marimekko charts combine visual pop with information. The eye captures two levels of information as it admires the colorful pattern the chart creates.

The Marimekko chart goes by other names as well. I’ve seen it also called a mosaic plot, matrix chart, stacked spinogram, spineplot, olympic or submarine chart, a Mondrian diagram, or even shortened to just mekko chart. And there are just as many ways of defining this chart type:

  • A combination of a 100% stacked column chart and 100% stacked horizontal-bar chart using a different variable for each
  • A variable-width stacked column chart
  • A way to show part-to-whole relationships across two variables at once
  • A way to show the frequencies of a contingency table where the area of each displayed cell is proportional to the whole
  • Pretty!

We’ll call it Marimekko because that’s a common name in the Tableau world, though mosaic plot is the more widely-used name. I suspect that the reason Tableau users have wanted this chart since 2009 is that it combines multiple variables of data into a single rectangle of a plot. And “chunking” likely feels more efficient, even when it creates a more complicated graph that requires explanation.

But if you have to explain how to read a given chart to your users, then it’s probably not a good chart to stick on a dashboard for general use (because as much as we try to write instructions and create links to Online Help guides, how much do people actually use them?). That said, a more complicated chart type can be a fantastic tool for storytelling, as seen in Hans Rosling’s TED talk, “The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen.”

Let me tell you a story using a famous example of Simpson’s paradox (also known as the Simpson-Yule effect). Briefly stated, Simpson’s paradox is where a trend appears in one direction when we look at the data as a whole, and then the trend reverses direction when we look at groups of the data (or vice versa).

In the early 1970s, there was a gender-bias lawsuit against the Graduate Division of the University of California Berkeley charging that women were being discriminated against in the admissions process. On an overall basis, the data seemed to agree. In the fall of 1973, there were 3,421 females and 8,442 males admitted, with admission rates of roughly 35% and 44% each:

A group of UC Berkeley faculty and staff obtained detailed admissions data and came to a different conclusion. The group's famous paper concluded that at the department level, there was a small but significant bias in graduate admissions in the opposite direction toward women.

If we break down the data by department for the six largest departments, we can see that different story. In four of the six largest departments, there was actually a higher proportion of women admitted than men, though for the overall acceptance, women had a lower admission rate:

Why the apparent paradox? The reason is due to a hidden lurking variable, in this case the number of women and men applying to each department. Here’s a set of stacked bars that show the number of women and men applying:

There are many more men than women applying to departments A and B, and that is weighting the results. Seeing the relationship between the number of applicants and admission rate in two separate charts is harder to tease out. This is where the Marimekko plot can come into play since it lets us display both measures at once.

The admission rate for each gender and department is still on the y-axis as a 100% stacked bars and the number of applicants is used to size each column. And in the spirit of going for it, I asked for some help on the visuals. My colleague and data fashionista Anya A’Hearn applied design elements from an actual Marimekko print to make it gorgeous:

With the Marimekko plot, the weighting that creates Simpson’s paradox becomes really apparent. In departments A and B, there’s a high admission rate for both genders and a much larger proportion of male applicants. That effectively pulls up the overall admission rate for men while in other departments, there’s a lower admission rate for men and a more equal proportion of male and female applicants.

The above view is not a single chart in Tableau. Instead it’s created as a dashboard with various images and text for design elements. The data is displayed in three worksheets: the main Marimekko chart itself, a second Marimekko for the overall proportions, and a third worksheet to act as the department header. An alternative view that only uses two worksheets uses a reference line to show the overall proportions:

Now that you know what a Marimekko is and when it’s most useful, it’s time to start building in Tableau 10. In the next installment of this series, I’ll share the steps to building a Marimekko chart in Tableau. And in the final installment, I’ll cover some alternatives to Marimekko charts that are easier to build.

When he’s not writing Tableau tutorials, Jonathan Drummey offers Tableau consulting and training at DataBlick. He is also a Tableau Zen Master and authors the @helpmedatablick Tableau tip of the day.


Submitted by Gareth (não verificado) on

Slightly off topic, but the Hans Rosling TED talk referenced is amazing.

Submitted by Bayapa R. on

Good article on Marimekko chart, waiting for next installment of series.

Submitted by Jonathan Drummey (não verificado) on

Thanks, Bayapa!

Submitted by Emily Justin (não verificado) on

My name is Emily Justin from Canada. I never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to Africa in February this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is DR YAKAN BODO he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 3 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3 years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster DR YAKAN BODO, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided, skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 2 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn't believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is: .or call his number: +13397932015.

Submitted by Rosalind Henson (não verificado) on

Wow i never thought i will happy in my life ever again, i want you all to thank DR OGUDUGU of GREATOGUDUGU@GMAIL.COM, he is a father that takes care of his children the spell caster of our time, he has saved me from a very ugly situation that almost made my life miserable and i want you all to thank him for me,my husband and i have be married for so many years now with children and the relationship was being threatened by a small girl in his working place,she was almost destroying my home i met so many spell casters but to no avail until i met a friend who came from africa and she told me about DR OGUDUGU, and i decided to contact him and try him out as i was losing faith in all spell casters, but he told not to worry that now am in his temple everything will be alright he assured me 100% that his spell has no side effects and that it will work straight and save my home and my marriage and after he has performed the sacrifices and casted the spell, my husband came back to us with love and affection and he loved us more and more and he never looked back or none did his love for me waiver, if you are also experiencing this sort of your situation in your home, if your husband is drifting away, if you are experiencing a broken home or you have lost your husband to a young woman outside there then look no further help is here as GREATOGUDUGU@GMAIL.COM is ready to help you out okay for any of your problem is it financial needs, revenge spell,Hiv cure, job spell, promotion spell what kind of spell do you need DR OGUDUGU is going to solve it for you okay i have promised him to always talk of his good works to the world in general and to any body who cares to listen, you can email him on his personal email on or GREATOGUDUGU@GMAIL.COM and he will attend to you as soon as possible okay once again his email is GREATOGUDUGU@GMAIL.COM.