The Ultimate Guide to Using Matrix Diagrams

When you need to convey information quickly, charts and diagrams are the best way. These visualization tools allow people to see at a glance what you are talking about. The key to effective communication is understanding the different types of charts and graphs available to you. Once you understand the various ways you can present information, you'll always have the right tool for the job.

Today, we are going to talk about matrix diagrams. We'll explain what they are, why you would use them, and how to create them. By the end of this post, you'll have one more tool in your arsenal.

What is a Matrix Diagram?

Matrix diagrams are a way to show the relationship between various items. A simple matrix diagram may look something like a work schedule. A list of names is on one axis of the diagram, and a list of days is on the other. To find out if they work, an employee would look at their name, find where it intersects with the day they are interested in, and see how that box is filled in. The box may have a checkmark indicating that they should come in, or perhaps it will have the shift they are to work. The exact information varies depending on what needs to be conveyed, but matrix diagrams are always about finding the relationship where data points intersect.

Matrix Diagram Examples

There are matrix diagram templates of various shapes. Here, we'll break down the different shapes that matrix diagrams can come in and give an example of when each shape may be used.

  • L-shaped — This is the most common form of matrix diagram. It is just like the work schedule we mentioned above. The worker's names are on the left-hand side, and the days of the week at the top form an L shape.
  • Y-shaped — If you have three sets of items to compare, then you can arrange the labels in a Y-shape. It can also help to imagine a triangle with a list of items coming from each of its sides. An example of this type could be that same work schedule, but now the location where the worker is scheduled is added to the diagram.
  • C-shaped — This is simply another way of representing three sets of items. The labels are arranged in a sideways C shape, one on the left, one across the top, and one on the right. The shape of the chart itself resembles a 3-D cube. It can be used for the same things a Y-shaped diagram would be.
  • T-shaped — Shaped like a sideways T, this matrix diagram is good for comparing three things that are related to a third but not to each other. Imagine you have a list of products labeled horizontally. Above that, on the left, is a list of plants that make those products. Below that, also on the left, is a list of customers for that product.
  • X-shaped — You can extend a T-shaped matrix with another data set but making it an X-shaped matrix, which looks more like a plus sign. Imagine our same diagram from above, but now we have a new list to the left of the plants and customers. This side of the diagram gives us the carriers that deliver from the plants and to the customers.

How to Make a Matrix Diagram

If you have some graphic design skills, making a matrix diagram is easy. Once you know the rows and columns of data you'd like to create, you'll need to count how many of each there are and create the diagram template in your favorite graphics editing software. From there, it's simply a matter of finding the intersection of each appropriate data point and entering the relationship between them using whatever notation you've decided on.

Matrix Diagram Software

Matrix diagrams aren't particularly difficult to make, but they can be made to look a lot more attractive with a matrix diagram tool, like MindManager. Matrix diagram software is especially important if you have limited graphic design skills and want something that will do the work for you. By using such a tool, your job will be limited to simply entering in the data and letting the software handle the formatting.

Get Started Fast with Templates!

MindManager comes pre-installed with many templates for you to choose from. To use these templates:

  1. Open MindManager
  2. Click NEW in the navigation menu
  3. Select the template you want to use
  4. A preview screen will appear. Check to if you want to use your selected template
  5. Select Create Map
  6. Customize the template for your specific project

Other Types of Maps and Charts


Once you know the shapes, matrix diagrams are essentially just a data entry problem. They are one of the easier forms of diagram you'll find yourself making. Nevertheless, they are an important part of communicating many important bits of information. If you'd like to find out more about the ways MindManager can help you convey information, feel free to contact us today.