How to Draw & Label a Circular Flow Diagram

A food web is an example of a circular flow chart.
A food web is an example of a circular flow chart. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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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