The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Onion Diagrams

Understanding the different types of charts and diagrams available to you will help make you a better communicator of information. When you have data that you'd like to present in support of an argument, or in order to present to other people for any reason, visualizing it effectively makes it far easier for those people to understand. In this post, we'll go over the onion diagram, a popular way of conveying certain information. After reading it, you'll have one more tool in your belt for the next time you need to report on data.

What is an Onion Diagram?

What is an Onion Diagram?

An onion diagram is a convenient way of showing the stakeholders in a given scenario. It gets its name because the layout is similar to an onion. At the center of the onion is the goal, product, or other whatever else the topic of the diagram may be. From that inner circle, outer circles are drawn that represent stakeholders of decreasing significance. The first of the outer circles will interact directly with the target item, and as the circles expand more and more, will cover a broader range of people or entities who are further removed.

Onion Diagram Examples

Onion diagrams can be used anytime there is a hierarchy that needs to be conveyed. A simple onion diagram may only contain one person per ring. Imagine a business being in the center ring and the executives, in order of rank, making up the outer rings. Of course, hierarchies aren't always so simple, and onion diagrams can convey other things as well.

Another example of an onion diagram would be product development. The product would be in the center, management would make up the initial outer ring, in the next ring would be the various departments responsible for development of the product. Marketing and sales could come in the next ring, and customers would make up the outer ring.

Anywhere there's a hierarchy, onion diagrams can be used.

How to Make an Onion Diagram

Onion diagrams are simple to make. First, you need to lay out the hierarchy as you want to present it in the diagram. The center should always be only one thing, which is whatever the hierarchy revolves around. Each layer of the onion would represent the hierarchy as it expands. There is often more than one thing in a give layer. For example, you might have one layer for upper management, one for middle management, one for supervisors, and one for other employees. All the people in each layer would be represented on the chart in their respective circles.

Once you know your hierarchy, creating the chart is as simple as drawing a small circle to place the topic in, and increasingly large outer circles for the other steps of the hierarchy. Be sure to draw the circles large enough to label them and list all the elements that need to fit.

Onion Diagram Software

Although drawing circles and filling them in with basic information is easy, doing so in an attractive and professional way is much easier with the use of an onion diagram tool like MindManager. Such tools will have onion diagram templates that let you create attractive onion diagrams simply by typing in your hierarchies and letting the software do the work.

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


Onion diagrams are just one form of visualization that MindManager is capable of. When you master all the tools available to you, you'll not only be a much more effective communicator, but you'll be better organized as well.