General rules for chart design

  • horizontal format if possible; Golden section/ratio: 1:1.618
  • labels to be read from left to right; no line breaks
  • x axis: cause; y axis: effect
  • words are spelled out, mysterious and elaborate encoding avoided
  • little messages help explain data
  • elaborately encoded shadings, crosshatching, and colors are avoided; instead, labels are placed on the graphic itself; no legend is required
  • colors, if used, are chosen so that the color deficient and color blind (5 – 10 percent of viewers) can make sense of the graphic (blue can be distinguished from other colors by most color-deficient people)
  • type is upper-and-lower case, with serifs

Tufte 2001

13 common mistakes in dashboard design

  1. Exceeding the boundaries of a single screen
  2. Supplying inadequate context for the data
  3. Displaying excessive detail or precision Expressing measures indirectly
  4. Choosing inappropriate media of display Introducing meaningless variety
  5. Using poorly designed display media
  6. Encoding quantitative data inaccurately
  7. Arranging the data poorly
  8. Ineffectively highlighting what’s important
  9. Cluttering the screen with useless decoration
  10. Misusing or overusing color
  11. Designing an unappealing visual display

From Stephen Few: Common pitfalls in Dashboard Design (PDF)

Dashboard items


  • Bookings
  • Billings
  • Sales pipeline (anticipated sales)
  • Number of orders
  • Order volume
  • Selling prices

  • Market share
  • Campaign success
  • Customer demographics

  • Revenues
  • Expenses
  • Profits

    Technical support

  • Number of support calls
  • Resolved cases
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Call durations


  • Number of days to ship
  • Backlog
  • Inventory levels

  • Number of units manufactured
  • Manufacturing times
  • Number of defects
    Human resources

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee turnover
  • Count of open positions
  • Count of late performance reviews
    Information technology

  • Network downtime
  • System usage
  • Fixed application bugs

    Web Services

  • Number of visitors
  • Number of page hits
  • Visit duractions

From Stephen Few: Information dashboard design: the effective visual communication of data (book)

User Centered Design

The central idea behind UCD is that designers create experiences based on a rich and nuanced understanding of observed and implied user needs over time. UCD grew out of a functional, usability-oriented philosophy that began in the workplace, but it has since expanded beyond the purely functional to take into account many dimensions of the user’s experience, including emotional needs and motivations.

Robert Fabricant: Design With Intent