How to Draw & Label a Circular Flow Diagram


Circular flow charts are visual aids that illustrate the relationships between two or more entities in a given system. These charts can highlight economic dependencies and inter-reliance, or simplify a complex system such as the U.S. economy. The primary distinction between circular flow charts and linear flow charts is the cyclical nature of inputs and outputs -- the connections between entities do not form dead-ends, but feed back into the system.

  • Determine the entities being modeled -- e.g., snake, rat, grass.

  • Draw nodes, shapes, to represent each entity. Use the same shape for all entities or a unique image for each. Label each shape with a title or nickname so they can be identified by your audience.

  • Use arrows to illustrate the connections between each entity -- e.g., the rat eats the grass, the snake eats the rat, the grass is nourished by waste and decomposed organic matter. Label each arrow with a word or phrase that expresses the relationship -- e.g., eats, nourishes, preys, predates.

  • Add more arrows to show other relationships -- e.g., grass shelters the rat, the snake pollinates the grass. Use different colors or font styles for each type of relationship.

  • Remove confusing or unnecessary arrows.

  • Outline and color in the diagram with markers. Use a simple color palette to avoid distracting your audience.

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  • Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
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