Do you feel like you have too many things to keep track of? A flow chart can help set you straight.
A flow chart is a diagram that visualizes a process or workflow. Typically, you uses boxes or shapes to represent different steps in a process, and then you connect those steps with lines or arrows.
Flow charts are perfect for including in reports, presentations, white papers–really, anywhere you would need to communicate and simplify a process and help with decision making!
But making a flow chart from scratch can seem like a bit of a daunting task. After all, you’ve probably come across some bad flow charts before…ones that make reading them feel like you’re untangling a ball of yarn.
But when done right, a flow chart can demystify a process, help simplify decision making, and set people on the right track.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start with a flow chart template.
How to create your own flow chart to communicate a process and simplify decision making:
- Plan your flow chart before you begin designing–how many steps will it have? How complex do you want it to be?
- Pick a flow chart template that fits the process you want to visualize.
- Add, remove, or rearrange points in the flow using Venngage’s drag and drop canvas.
- Insert your own dates and events using the text boxes.
- Customize the colors, fonts and icons to make the design your own.
Here are 10 flow chart template, design tips, and examples to get you started.
1. Use a flow chart template to show how parts make a whole
One of the ways you can use a flow chart is to break down part of a whole.
This could mean breaking down a concept into components (like breaking down the factors that contribute to a business goal), or breaking down a larger topic subcategories (like different facets of digital marketing).
For example, take a look at how the flow chart template below visualizes the breakdown of a budget using a flow chart. The chart starts with the total budget and then breaks it down into smaller parts, using icons to represent each area:
When breaking down a process or concept into parts, remember to:
- Not overburden your chart with too many components, or it may become hard to read.
- Consider using icons to emphasize and differentiate between points.
- Include a caption or brief description, when more clarification is necessary.
2. Combines two simple flow charts to show how processes intersect
Do you want to visualize two processes that work in tandem with each other? To help readers better understand both processes, you may want to create a flow chart that visualizes both.
The key for combining two flows is to keep the charts simple. If you try to incorporate too many parts, your flow chart will quickly become cluttered.
For example, presentation flow chart template below uses a simple 5-step flow chart over a 4-step chart to show how an inbound marketing funnel and content strategy work together.
Notice how the circles are in bright colors, so they contrast with the more neutral rectangles. This makes the chart easier to read:
Keep these tips in mind when combining two flows in one chart:
- Keep the flow charts simple, and don’t include too many points.
- Use color and shapes to differentiate between the two flows.
- Provide a clear title and if you think it’s necessary, a brief description of the chart.
3. Color code the phases of a process to make your flow chart easier to scan
You can use colors to differentiate between types of information, to emphasize specific points, and to give your flow chart personality (for a more in-depth guide to picking colors for your designs, read this article).
For example, you could use colors to differentiate between different stages in a process. Not only can the colors help readers remember the information, it can also make your flow chart easier to scan.
Take a look at how color is used in this flow chart template:
Some tips for using color to communicate information effectively:
- Use contrasting and complementary colors to highlight information.
- Add a single color to a black and white design to highlight a single piece of information.
- Pick colors that reflect the mood or theme of your information.
4. Use icons to illustrate and emphasize each point in your flow chart
Icons are another design element that you can use to make your information more memorable. You can use icons to emphasize points and to illustrate concepts.
For example, this flow chart uses icons to emphasize and illustrate each step in the product design process (like a rocket ship icon for the launch phase):
When picking icons for your designs, remember to follow these best practices:
- Pick icons that are the same style (same line width, flat or illustrated, filled or line art, etc.).
- Make sure your icons are consistently sized, to prevent your design from looking cluttered.
- Don’t use icons to replace text unless the meaning is very well known (for example, a stop sign).
5. Visualize a story or experience using a flow chart template
Charts and infographics are the perfect formats for telling stories with your data. They allow you to illustrate concepts and events using engaging visuals.
One of the most popular uses of a flow chart is to illustrate a business’ customer journey. While customer journey maps can be quite simple, more businesses are creating engaging visuals to tell their customers’ stories.
Icons, bold colors, and decorative fonts can all be used to make your customer journey map interesting to read, while still maintaining a professional look.
For example, take a look at how this flow char template uses icons and arrows to illustrate the story and guide readers:
If you want to include more than one customer persona’s path in one visual, then using different colors and icons for their respective paths will make your chart easier to read. Take this flow chart template:
Tips for using a flow chart to tell a story:
- Use directional cues like arrows to guide how people read your chart.
- Use icons to illustrate the steps or stages in your process.
- If you’re showing more than one customer persona’s journey, use different colors and illustrations to identify their respective paths.
6. Engage your social media followers by creating a fun and simple flow chart
Flow charts don’t have to just visualize boring business processes. They can also be a fun way to engage your audience on social media!
You could create a flow chart that doubles as a quiz, like this flow chart we made that tells you what your whiskey personality is.
Or take this super helpful flow chart that helps you come up with plans for Valentine’s Day. The bright background color and quirky icons help make the design pop from people’s newsfeeds:
Key tips for designing a flow chart for social media:
- Keep your chart very simple, so people will be able to read it easily.
- Use the optimal image dimensions for each social media platform.
- Pick a bright, bold color scheme that will stand out from newsfeeds.
7. Compare two paths or options with a flow chart
If you want to help people make a decision, a flow chart is a great way to visualize two options or paths people can take.
You could show how the two paths diverge from the same starting points, or you could place two flow charts side by side.
For example, this infographic shows two potential paths readers can take by placing two flow charts side by side:
Keep these tips in mind when using a flow chart to show two options:
- Show parallel options or stages in process by placing them level with each other on the page.
- Use colors and icons to differentiate between the two paths.
- Use a brighter color to emphasize a path you would like readers to follow (for example, if you’re showing two service plan options).
8. Incorporate a flow chart into a longer infographic
A flow chart doesn’t have to stand on its own. If you’re creating an infographic that covers more information, you can incorporate a small flow chart into your design.
It’s generally a good idea to only visualize a short process or a simple concept. Information that requires more detail would probably require its own infographic or chart.
For example, this infographic uses a flow chart in the first section to show how different elements of your content feed into its overall style and readability:
When incorporating a flow chart into a bigger infographic, remember to:
- Keep your flow chart brief and focused on one concept.
- Clearly title the flow chart section so readers understand it.
9. Use a flow chart to prioritize options and predict outcomes
Flow charts aren’t just visuals that explain processes to others. They can also be useful tools to help you plan and prioritize projects, strategies, and experiments.
For example, take the flow chart template below that you can use to determine if a growth experiment is worth running. This template was part of a set we created to help you plan and implement your own business growth strategy, here:
Tips for using a flow chart to prioritize experiments:
- Identify the key metric or goal you want to impact and the experiment you want to run to impact that goal.
- Ask predictive questions about the value and resources of the experiment, to gage if it should be a priority.
- Use different colors to categorize the types of resources required, or the amount of effort required to run the experiment.
10. Use a flow chart to show a cyclical process
Some processes don’t have a definite beginning or end, and a flow chart is a great way to visualize that.
For example, this brochure template uses a flow chart to show why this business is sustainable:
- Put the “starting point” in the top left corner of your flow chart.
- Use directional cues like arrows to indicate which direction the cycle moves in.
- Offer brief description of the flow chart for context.