# Three Dimensional Graphic in Excel

EE Pros,

I have a very nice, Graphic that represents three Problematic conditions; Probability of failure (Y Axis), Monitoring of device (X Axis) and Severity of failure (Size of intersection).  I am wondering if there is another graphical way to represent those three dimensions in a Graphic in something other then a Bubble Chart.  Does anyone have a good example of such a graphic?

B.
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Microsoft MVP ExcelCommented:
Hello Bright,

long time no chat.

Charting any data in a 3-dimensional graph with X, Y and Z axis is problematic, since the rendering will always be on a 2D medium (screen, paper), and holographic displays are not quite there yet.

A bubble chart can be hard to interpret, too, because the reader will not immediately know if the data is rendered relative to bubble area or bubble circumference, so judging whether something is "twice as much" as something else can be a challenge.

But there are other ways.

Pick up any book by Stephen Few if you want to internalise the art of good data visualisation. "Show me the Numbers" and "Now You See It" are my favourite. I have "Signal" sitting on the bookshelf, waiting to be read, and I'm looking forward to it.

This article on his web site www.perceptualedge.com sums up some of the principles quite nicely.

His advice for charting data with many variables is to avoid 3D charts and use several small charts that each focus on one aspect of the data, "small multiples". This concept has been taken up by many dashboard designers and even Microsoft's Power View has it as an option. Some people call them "panel charts" or "trellis charts".

Here's the quote:

Most often, only a single graph is required to communicate a single quantitative message, but there are times when the number of variables that must be displayed will not fit into a single graph. Each of the two axes in a graph can be used to display a single variable, totaling two. You can also include another variable by including multiple lines, sets of bars, or sets of points that are each visually encoded in a distinct way, such as through the use of different colors. This brings the total up to three variables. What do you do if you need to display four variables? You could use a 3-D graph, adding a third axis (the z axis), but I recommend that you avoid this approach, because they are simply too hard to read. There is a solution, however, that works quite well. It involves what data visualization expert Edward Tufte calls “small multiples.”
This solution involves a series of small graphs, all arranged together in a way that can be seen simultaneously. Each graph is alike, including consistent scales, differing only in that each features a different item of a categorical variable. Figure 24 should clarify what I’m describing. In it you see three graphs arranged horizontally, which each display sales, both bookings and billings, by geographical region—that’s three variables. Each graph varies according to a fourth variable, which is sales channel (direct, distributor, or reseller). Keeping the quantitative scale consistent makes it is easy to compare the three sales channels.
Using small multiples to support an additional variable is a powerful technique. Graphs can be arranged horizontally, vertically, or even in a matrix of columns and rows. If you need to display one more variable than you can fit into a single graph, select this approach.

Hope that gives you a push in the right direction.

cheers, teylyn

PS: Stephen Few runs training courses and workshops on a regular basis. He even comes to New Zealand once a year. Several of my work colleagues have taken his course and the quality of charting in my day job has improved dramatically. If you get a chance to attend one of his workshops, go for it. I know you love good charts and you'll love his course.
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EngineerCommented:
Have you tried the Surface Chart?
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Commented:
there is a commerial add-in which gives option of trial.  http://5dchart.com/

you may wish to test it.
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Author Commented:
Teylyn,

Very nice to hear from you!  I thought you might pick up this odd but interesting "graphical" request.  Very happy to hear your day job has improved.  I'll be in Singapore in August and am planning a trip to NZ with my Son or Daughter; I hope we can take you and your family out to a dinner at your favorite restaurant.

As for the Graphic, I'm going to stick with the one you helped me build out about a year ago.  It still works very nicely and I can't find one better (3 dimensional bubble chart).

Very best regards,

b.
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