What Are 3D Bubble Charts?

See also the short video "Analyzing 3D Bubble Charts" by clicking here.

For background on 2D bubble charts, see "What are Bubble Charts" by clicking here.

Three-dimensional (or "3D") Bubble charts (or bubble graphs) compare the relationships between data objects in 4 data dimensions: the X-axis, the Y-axis, the Z-axis, and the bubble size. 3D bubble charts are extremely useful in project portfolio management and business investment decisions when you want to compare cost, risk, reward, and resource data simultaneously in a single chart, as illustrated in the example below.

3D Bubble Chart Example 1: This chart shows the the relationship between “Costs” (X-Axis), “Resources” (Y-Axis), Probability of Success (vertical or Z-axis) and “Profit” (Bubble Size). The most desirable quadrant for projects would be in the upper left rear quadrant (lower costs, lower resource requirements, and higher probability of success).

3D Bubble charts represent 3 dimensional space on a flat surface, and therefore it can be difficult to see all the bubbles in the chart space. In Bubble Chart Pro™ you can explore the data space by rotating the chart using the buttons at the bottom of the form. This lets you explore the data in a very natural manner. The charts rotate around the axes extending orthogonally from the X-Y and Y-Z planes as illustrated in Figure 1.

3D Bubble Chart Figure 1: This illustrates the axes of rotation for a 3D bubble chart.

In the 11-second video below, you can see the full rotations of a 3D bubble chart:

3D Bubble Chart Rotation Video (silent, 11 seconds): This video shows the full rotation of a Bubble Chart Pro™ 3D bubble chart

“Before Bubble Chart Pro it took me several hours to draw a two-dimensional Excel Scatter graph which showed the basic portfolio information I needed for our corporate executives. When I learned about Bubble Chart Pro and how easily it creates multi-dimensional diagrams I was blown away. We have been using it ever since, which is now going on three years. I create the necessary diagrams used by our “C” level executives for project portfolio prioritization in minutes rather than hours. I highly recommend Bubble Chart Pro for anyone tasked in Project Governance processing.”
Phil F., Administrative Director - Program Management Office, Health Care Industry

The chart in the video above uses "drop-lines" to help locate the bubbles in the chart space. Drop-lines are two lines that run from the center of each bubble to the chart grids. One line goes to a vertical grid and one goes to the horizontal grid. These drop-lines let you quickly locate the center of the bubble relative to the XY, XZ, or YZ graphs. You can also toggle the drop-line display on and off. Example 2 shows the same chart from Example 1 with drop-lines turned on.

3D Bubble Chart Example 2: This chart has drop-lines displayed.

You can also toggle the bubble size variable on and off to help visualize the bubbles in space as shown in Example 3.

3D Bubble Chart Example 3: This chart has the bubble size variable turned off.

For crowded 3D bubble charts, you can use Bubble Chart Pro's exclusive "zoom boxes" for zooming in on areas of the chart.

“I especially love the zoom function as it allows you to drill into crowed quadrants to see a cleaner picture. Once you start to use it, you’ll never want to display relationships any other way.”
Phil F., Administrative Director - Program Management Office, Health Care Industry

3D Bubble Chart Figure 3: Illustration of a 3D bubble chart zoom box. Click here to see the Zoom-Box video (1 minute)

As shown in Figure 3, Bubble Chart Pro™ lets you customize your bubble charts in many different ways, including colors, pictures, fonts, custom legends, etc. Plus, the bubbles are interactive so you can drill-down into the project data by double-clicking on a bubble or legend item.

3D Bubble Chart Figure 3: Examples of customized 3D bubble charts

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