Mastering the Art of Custom Ordering in Seaborn Violin Plots: A Comprehensive Guide

Mastering the Art of Custom Ordering in Seaborn Violin Plots: A Comprehensive Guide


Data visualization is an integral component of data analysis, aiding in both the exploration and explanation phases of data science projects. Among the myriad of plot types available, violin plots hold a special place due to their ability to convey a lot of information in a single visual. They are particularly useful when you need to compare the distribution of a numerical variable across different categories.

While creating a violin plot is straightforward, mastering the nuances, such as custom ordering, can make your plots significantly more impactful. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the specifics of custom ordering in Seaborn’s violin plots. Using Python’s Seaborn library and the Iris dataset, we’ll look at how you can set the order of display for different groups in a violin plot.

Why Seaborn?

Seaborn is a Python data visualization library based on Matplotlib that offers a high-level, aesthetically pleasing interface for drawing attractive and informative statistical graphics. It comes with built-in themes and color palettes to make it easy to create complex plots, including violin plots.

Iris Dataset: A Quick Overview

The Iris dataset is a well-known dataset in machine learning and statistics. It contains 150 observations from three species of iris flowers: Setosa, Versicolor, and Virginica. Each observation includes four features: sepal length, sepal width, petal length, and petal width. This dataset serves as an excellent example for demonstration purposes.

What Are Violin Plots?

A violin plot combines a box plot and a kernel density plot into a single chart. The plot features a kernel density estimation of the underlying distribution of the data, making it easier to visualize the distribution of a numeric variable for different categories.

Why Custom Ordering Matters?

The default ordering in violin plots may not always be the most informative. Custom ordering can offer several benefits:

1. Emphasize Important Groups: Bring attention to specific categories by placing them at the forefront.
2. Facilitate Comparison: Make it easier to compare groups that are of immediate interest.
3. Data Storytelling: Control the narrative by guiding the viewer through the data in a particular sequence.

Custom Ordering: Basic Syntax

Seaborn’s `violinplot` function allows you to specify the order in which the violins should be displayed using the `order` parameter.

Basic Custom Ordering

Here’s an example that specifies the order of species manually:

import seaborn as sns
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

df = sns.load_dataset('iris')

# Manually specify the order
sns.violinplot(x='species', y='sepal_length', data=df, order=[ "versicolor", "virginica", "setosa"])

Ordering by Statistical Measures

You can also determine the order based on some statistical measure of the data, such as the median:

import seaborn as sns
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

df = sns.load_dataset('iris')

# Determine the order by decreasing median
my_order = df.groupby(by=["species"])["sepal_length"].median().sort_values().iloc[::-1].index

# Use the determined order
sns.violinplot(x='species', y='sepal_length', data=df, order=my_order)

End-to-End Example

Let’s bring it all together with an end-to-end example that demonstrates both manual and statistical custom ordering.

# Import libraries
import seaborn as sns
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Set background

# Load the Iris dataset
df = sns.load_dataset('iris')

# Create a subplot of 1 row and 2 columns
fig, axes = plt.subplots(1, 2, figsize=(14, 7))

# Violin plot with manual ordering
sns.violinplot(ax=axes[0], x='species', y='sepal_length', data=df, order=["versicolor", "virginica", "setosa"])
axes[0].set_title('Manual Ordering')

# Violin plot with statistical ordering
my_order = df.groupby(by=["species"])["sepal_length"].median().sort_values().iloc[::-1].index
sns.violinplot(ax=axes[1], x='species', y='sepal_length', data=df, order=my_order)
axes[1].set_title('Statistical Ordering')

# Show the plot


Custom ordering in Seaborn violin plots offers a powerful way to control the narrative of your data visualization. By understanding how to effectively use this feature, you can make your plots much more insightful and tailored to your specific needs. Whether you’re a data science newbie or a seasoned professional, mastering the art of custom ordering will undoubtedly enhance your data visualization skills.

Find more … …

Exploring Iris Data Visualization with Seaborn’s Violin Plot in Python

Python Data Visualisation for Business Analyst – How to do Violin Plot in Python

Enhancing Data Visualization with Custom Line Widths in Seaborn’s Violin Plots