I have a list of accounts and want to show the balances in a pie chart. That's pretty straightforward as long as all of the accounts have a positive balance.

When some of the accounts have negative balances (such as a loan or an overdrafted checking account) is there some clever way to still present that data as a pie chart?

The best idea I've been able to come up with is to turn the pie chart into two semicircles, one which shows the assets on top of one which shows the liabilities, with the radius of each semicircle proportional to the total of assets / liabilities.

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    BTW, I know a pie chart doesn't really make sense in this case. Humor me. :) – Patrick McElhaney Jan 28 '16 at 0:57
  • A pie chart is the wrong tool for the job even if you only had positive balances. – Crissov Jan 30 '16 at 9:03

If by some reason you really have to show negative values in a pie chart (which in our project we do), you may consider using the following style:

a pie chart with negative values

In the above chart, the summation of all values is 19,000 and pie area only illustrate the comparison of the absolute values for each component.

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Use the right visualization

Pie charts represent constituents of a whole. As you've discovered, this doesn't work when numbers can go into the red.

Use bar or line charts for more flexible (and arguably more informative) visualization.

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An inner ring showing liabilities and an outer one showing assets with the ratio of their thickness's set by the ratio of the total liabilities to assets.

enter image description here
(Don't comment on the ugly colours, just a picture to help explain what is in my head)

But I think in general that a pie chart is probably not the best choice for representing such data.

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  • Don't rings just make a circular bar chart? – plainclothes Jan 28 '16 at 7:02
  • They can, but I'm just talking about overlaying two pie charts of different sizes, which isn't really a circular bar chart. – LovesTha Jan 29 '16 at 0:15
  • Would love to see an example. Sounds confusing. – plainclothes Jan 29 '16 at 21:11
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    I think your illustration provides great support for not using a pie chart to visualize this data ;-) – plainclothes Jan 30 '16 at 22:54
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    I agree, it aint the right format to display this data. But if for some insane reason you did, this would be the best way. Well I guess 3 pie charts would be best: assets, liabilities & ratio of them. – LovesTha Jan 31 '16 at 3:54

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