How to Create a Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets

The radial bar chart in Google Sheets is useful for creating eye-catching visualizations of differences among certain categories.

This type of chart uses the polar coordinate system over the cartesian system to represent data. This visualization is also known as a circular bar chart and is often used for aesthetic purposes.

Let’s look at a scenario where we can use a radial bar chart!

We’re comparing the sales of three different items in your e-commerce online store. We can easily use a column chart or a bar chart, but you want something more eye-catching since you’ll be sharing the document with an investor. 

We can create a radial bar chart in Google Sheet whenever we want a visually unique way of comparing values in a dataset. This type of bar chart can also be helpful when you need to compact your data in a smaller space.

Let’s learn how to create a radial bar chart ourselves in Google Sheets and later test out the function with actual date values.



A Real Example of a Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets

Let’s look at a real example of a radial bar chart being used in a Google Sheets spreadsheet.

We have here a radial bar chart that shows the differences in the quantity of three items in our online store. We set an arbitrary maximum value of 1,200 that allowed the chart to look more visually striking.

An example of a Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets


As shown above, the radial bar chart is just three different charts on top of each other. Each “arc” is part of a doughnut chart, with the rest of the data set to transparent. 

In the image below, you can see what these doughnut charts look like, taken apart and colored in.

Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets is made of doughnut charts


You can make a copy of the spreadsheet above using the link I’ve attached below. 

Now that you’ve seen a working example of this type of chart let’s start creating our own radial bar chart in Google Sheets!



How to Create a Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets

This section will go through each step needed to set up a radial bar chart in Google Sheets. This guide will show you how to create the chart seen in the example earlier.

Follow these steps to start using creating our radial bar chart:

  1. First, let’s add two more columns to our dataset. We’ll be needing these values to format each bar in our chart.
    Add helper and max value columns
  2. Next, select a maximum value. This will let Google Sheets know which value is considered one full rotation.
    Set a max value for the Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets
  3. Our helper column will help define the empty space needed after the bar. We do this by getting the difference of the maximum value and the current item’s value.
    Compute for helper column needed for Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets
  4. Next, do this for all rows by dragging the formula down.
    Drag down formula to fill rest of column
  5. Create a new chart. In the chart editor, look for the doughnut chart option as the Chart type.
    Select the donut chart
  6. Ensure that the background color and chart border color are set to None. This will make sure that only the rings are visible. This will be important later when we stack all the doughnut charts on top of each other.
    Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets needs transparent background
  7. Set the Slice label and border color to None as well. The donut hole size depends on the number of bars you’ll include in the chart. Since Google Sheets doesn’t know this automatically, you’ll have to set it yourself manually.
    donut hole needs to be adjusted manually
  8. Make sure that the Value range is set correctly in the Chart editor.
    Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets uses a donut chart for each bar
  9. We can leave the Chart title blank to ensure that everything else is transparent.
    Keep the title blank for radial bar chart
  10. In the Legend section, select None as the position.
    Legend should be disabled
  11.  Afterward, select the second pie slice and set its color to None. This will ensure that our helper value is transparent.
    Transparent helper slice
  12.  After adjusting the formatting, we should have our doughnut chart look like this. Similarly, we can now do all the prior steps again for the next two radial bar
  13.  After creating all three radial bars, we can stack them together so that they share the same center.
    Radial Bar Chart in Google Sheets created from multiple radial bars



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. When do we use a radial bar chart?
    Radial bar charts are visually striking and can help people engage in your visualization. It’s also a compact representation that can suggest that the data is “part of a whole”.  
  2. What are the drawbacks of using a radial bar chart?
    A drawback to the circular shape is that it may lead to people misunderstanding the chart.
    For instance, think about what it might mean for a radial bar to reach the full 360 degrees. Would that mean that the data point has reached the highest possible value? Or has it simply reached some arbitrary maximum value (like the case in our previous example).
    Circular bar charts are also quite difficult to make in Google Sheets since each bar is its own separate doughnut chart. 

In conclusion, this step-by-step guide shows how to easily create a radial bar chart from scratch. This type of chart is a unique and engaging way of comparing categorical data in Google Sheets.

The radial bar chart is just one type of visualization you can make in Google Sheets. With so many other Google Sheets functions out there, you can surely find one that suits your use case. 

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