3 Powerful Reasons to use Horizon Graphs in your Market Intelligence

By Peter Maskell


Horizon graphs showing Technical Applications growths in South Korea, for 11 industry groups between the years 2009 and 2020.


Technical applications includes products such as BIM, CAx, PLM, GIS, visualisation software and related applications. Data is taken from the Cambashi Industry Observatory.

Why Horizon graphs?

Presenting data in visually useful and interesting ways is an important part of my job at Cambashi. Be it trying to explore country or industry trends, presenting data to clients or checking data we’ve produced for errors; I regularly check data visualisation blogs and articles for new and interesting ways to present our data.

If you’ve not seen horizon graphs before then you’re probably wondering what on earth the data above is showing – I certainly was when I first stumbled upon a set of horizon graphs on the Flowing Data blog a few weeks ago.

Although it takes a brief explanation to first understand horizon graphs, I soon realised it could be a very effective way of showing data for several categories in small space.

Naturally I wanted to explore whether they could be useful for Cambashi, and what you see above is my very first attempt at this.

How Do Horizon Graphs Work?

Using the data from the Aerospace & Defence graph, here is how it looks in a slightly more familiar format:

The black line corresponds to annual growth in the industry – there is a small period of decline followed by very high growth before levelling off to a much lower level out towards 2020. The key aspect in understanding horizon graphs here is the banding of different growth levels.

To produce a horizon graph you simply reflect the negative values (in grey) above the x-axis and move each band of positive growth (darker orange) down to the x-axis and you get something like this:

Notice how I’m now displaying the same information in about a quarter of the area as above. This is the beauty of horizon charts.

Interpreting the Horizon Graph

So now, looking back at the original chart, we have the graphs of 11 industries in South Korea, condensed down into a very small space, what can we learn?

Well, that’s a bit of an open question, the very purpose of this article was for me to see whether presenting information in this way is useful for the Cambashi Market Observatories.

One thing you can’t do is pick out a particular growth value for a particular year. It’s clear the use in these types of graph is comparing trends in different categories over time.

A few thoughts:

  • Before building the graph I would have expected to see negative growth in 2009 in most industries, followed by a rebound in 2010 but it’s clear that different industries were affected differently by the global recession.
  • We can see that Aerospace & Defence is by far and away the strongest growing industry.
  • The strong growth in Machinery followed by a quite steep decline in the following years is interesting and something I might want to explore further.
  • Transportation which, in the case of South Korea, is dominated by Ship Building, shows very variable growths throughout the time period. It would be interesting to compare this to the APAC revenues of providers such as Aveva that are strong in the ship building space.

At a glance I’ve picked out 4 interesting points from South Korea’s technical applications market.

I certainly think horizon graphs can be useful but they are perhaps more suited to data that covers longer or more granular time periods. Examples of this might include measures such as unemployment rates by region or share prices by company.

Overall I love the technique, and I think it would be great if, as Nathan Yau from the Flowing Data blog says, horizon graphs become part of the general public’s visual vocabulary. Will you use horizon graphs to present your data? Have you seen any other good uses of horizon graphs?

Let us know!

To hear about how the Market Observatories can help your business, visit /webinar
and tune into our webinar series on Evidence Based Business Planning.

One thought on “3 Powerful Reasons to use Horizon Graphs in your Market Intelligence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.