A pyramid graph is a chart in the shape of a triangle or pyramid. These charts are best used when your data is organized in some kind of hierarchical way. The levels indicate some kind of progressive order, like:
A population pyramid is a type of pyramid graph that shows the distribution of age groups for a particular country, area, or group. The graphs tends to be shaped like a pyramid because (perhaps, obviously), everyone is born at age 0. The top of the pyramid — usually around 90 to 100 years old — contains a tiny fraction of the population.
One example of a quantity pyramid chart would be if a company was looking at an overall number of sales values in states where they have branches, with each layer representing a branch of the chain. In this chart, the layers are of varying thicknesses depending on the percentage contribution towards overall sales. A bar chart could be used instead, but a pyramid chart is generally considered more attractive and easier to read.
- More “important” to least important. For example, CEOs and managers at the top and temporary workers on the bottom level.
- Older to newer. For example, great-great-grandparents at the top of the pyramid and great-great-grandchildren at the bottom.
- Specific to least specific. For example, expert fields at the top and more general fields at the bottom.
- Least to most: fewest items at the top and greatest at the bottom. For example, the USDA food pyramid shows that fats, oils and sweets (at the top, in the smallest piece) should be eaten less than other foods in larger sections below, like bread, cereal, rice and pasta (at the bottom, in the biggest piece).
- Steps that have been taken towards a task, such as measuring data, which provides information and informs decision making
- Simple market shares, sales, investment quantities, or other figure-based data
- Business management positions or other roles in a hierarchy
A pyramid chart is a simple and easily understood chart used to show hierarchies, workflows, or simple, singular datasets. They can also be called triangle diagrams, and for obvious reasons: their shape is triangular, which is divided up into horizontal sections. These charts are used to compare a single data set, show proportions, or illustrate a hierarchy or directional workflow.
Making strategic decision
Pyramid charts have been used for a long time—perhaps the most famous historical pyramid chart is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, created in 1943. This chart has five levels of needs that you must attain before stepping up to the next level, finally achieving self-actualization, which is an example of a simple process flow pyramid chart.