Introduction to Corset Plots

Corset plots are a visualization technique used to visualize repeat measures at 2 time points (such as pre- and post- data). Specifically, corset plots visualize the distribution of measurements at each time point, as well as the trajectories of individual change. This method of visualization is ideal for showing the heterogeneity of data and differences by sub-groups.

The ‘ggcorset’ package relies on ‘ggplot2’ to make its visualizations, allowing for easy customization and integration with other ‘ggplot2’ objects. This vignette will introduce uses of this visualization technique, as well as how to make customizations using ‘ggplot2’. For specific functionality, the GitHub README1 or the CRAN Package Manual2 should be consulted.

Data Structure

The ‘ggcorset’ package provides two functions – gg_corset() and gg_corset_elongated() – which produce visualizations for wide and long data formats, respectively. The visualizations produced by these functions are identical.

The c_var variable is a user-defined variable that make the individual-level changes interpretable, and should be chosen strategically. This variable can be a discrete value reflecting change types or sub-groups. It can also be a continuous value to highlight levels of change. As such, various c_var strategies are outlined in this vignette.

Anatomy of a Corset Plot

A corset plot consists of:

  1. distribution at each time point using half violins (overall distributions or distributions by group);

  2. individual trajectories of change between each time point; and optionally

  3. ‘eyelets’ showing either the standard error mean (SEM), or mean +/- 1 standard deviation (SD) by group

The plot above was created using the sample ggcorset data “drinkdays”, and by creating a variable which captures the direction of change across the two time points. The theme_ggcorset() was used to polish the visualization alongside a few ggplot2 commands to customize the titles and axes, as denoted below:


# LOAD "drinkdays" data from the ggcorset package

# Magnitude of change: Subtract T1 from T2
drinkdays$change <- drinkdays$time2-drinkdays$time1

# Direction of Change
drinkdays$direction <- ifelse(drinkdays$change<0,"Decrease",
                              ifelse(drinkdays$change>0,"Increase","No Change"))
drinkdays$direction <- factor(drinkdays$direction, 
                              levels = c("Increase","No Change","Decrease"))

# CORSET PLOT: Basic plot + theme_ggcorset()
plot <- gg_corset(drinkdays, y_var1 = "time1", y_var2 = "time2", 
                  c_var = "direction", group = "id", eyelets = T) + 

# ADDITIONAL ggplot2 commands
plot + 
  # Changes legend title, and selects a colour-palette
  scale_colour_manual("Direction of Change",
                    values = MetBrewer::met.brewer("Ingres",3)) +
  # Changes the plot title
  ggtitle("Change in Drinking Days") + 
  # Changes the y-axis title
  ylab("Number of Drinking Days per Week") + 
  # Changes the x-axis title (removes in favour of the 2 time point labels below)
  xlab("") +
  # Changes the labels of the 2 time points (on the x-axis)
  scale_x_discrete(labels = c("Pre","Post")) +
  # Makes the legend lines thicker
  guides(colour = guide_legend(override.aes = list(size = 3)))

Faceted Corset Plots

Corset plots can also be faceted using the faceted = T argument, whereby all individual trajectories are used in the background of the plot. In faceted corset plots, the distribution of each group are visualized in each facet, allowing for the change in distribution over the two time points by group to be the primary focus. Eyelets can be used in conjunction with the faceted corset plots, if desired.

gg_corset(drinkdays, y_var1 = "time1", y_var2 = "time2",
          c_var = "direction", group = "id", faceted = T) + 
  theme_ggcorset() +  
  scale_colour_manual("Direction of Change",
                      values = MetBrewer::met.brewer("Demuth",3))  +
  ggtitle("Change in Drinking Days") + 
  ylab("Number of Drinking Days per Week") + xlab("") +
  scale_x_discrete(labels = c("Pre","Post")) +
  guides(colour = guide_legend(override.aes = list(size = 3)))