Successful dashboards serve your audience and make it easier for them to find insights—and this requires good design. So why not look to the design world for guidance? In a recent webinar, Andy Cotgreave shared ideas and theories from designers and psychologists that we can apply to data visualization. For those who want to dig a little deeper, we compiled a list of reading materials around each of these design principles. We also reached out to Tableau Zen Masters to see what resources they use to hone their dashboard design skills and added them to the mix.

Use this list to explore best practices, get inspired by data viz podcasts, and dig into words of wisdom from the Tableau community.

Design principles

For advanced data viz experts and those new to design theory, these principles are a good foundation for understanding how humans process information.

  1. The Fine Line Between Confusion and Deception — The design principle, Figure Ground Relationship states that the eye can distinguish and separate objects (the figure) from the background (ground) of the design. Andy Kirk describes the fine line between confusion and deception through a Florida Gun Deaths chart.
  2. Form Follows Function (Guggenheim) — The Form versus Function design principle was created by American architect, Louis Sullivan, and it emphasizes that purpose should always be the starting point for a design. This article from the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum is a good overview and rebuttal of the principle.
  3. Design Principles: Visual Perception and the Principles of Gestalt — The principle of Uniform Connectedness states that through a "grouping effect," we perceive elements connected through lines, colors, or frames as a single unit. Smashing Magazine provides an overview of the key ideas behind the principle, along with specific examples.
  4. Design’s Hidden Influence — In this whitepaper, Andy Cotgreave shows you how to think like a designer when creating dashboards, using psychological principles to influence behavior.

Best practices

Data viz design can seem complex, but it’s based on a foundation of best practices and design principles. Use these resources to learn how to create effective, impactful visualizations for your audience.

  1. 10 Best Practices for Building Effective Dashboards – This whitepaper teaches you the best practices for building effective and clear dashboards for your audiences.
  2. Which Chart or Graph – Don’t know how to display your data? Learn about which chart or graph type is best for visualizing your data for maximum impact.
  3. Andy Kriebel’s Financial Times Visual Vocabulary – Zen Master Hall-of-Famer Andy Kriebel recreated the Financial Times’ Visual Vocabulary in Tableau so you can identify the best chart for the situation.
  4. All the ‘Little of Visualization of Design’ – Through a series of posts, Andy Kirk provides examples and commentary of the small decisions that make a big difference between good and bad practices for data viz design.
  5. Storytelling with Data Podcast — In this podcast by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, author of Storytelling With Data, learn from thought leaders around topics like best practices, history of data viz, developing a data storytelling team, and more.
  6. PolicyViz Podcast — Through guest speakers, learn about best practices and approaches to interactive data visualization for different audiences and applying different elements of design to your dashboard.

Data viz inspiration

In a data viz rut? Draw some inspiration for your next dashboard with these webinars and podcasts.

  1. DataStories — From sketching to color, this podcast by experts Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner covers different aspects of design to help you create a meaningful and memorable data visualization.
  2. Tableau Wannabe Podcast — This podcast has a little bit of everything. Keep up with events in the Tableau community, hear from people using Tableau in the field, and learn about new features with hosts, Emily Kund and Matt Francis.
  3. Design secrets from historic visualizations — In this livestream, Andy Cotgreave and RJ Andrews, author of Info We Trust, deep dive into historic visualizations that have shaped how we approach data visualization today.

Apply learnings to Tableau: Community highlights

When it comes to data viz, the Tableau community is a great resource for learning, challenges, and gathering feedback. Check out these resources, recommended by Tableau Zen Masters and Ambassadors.

  1. Andy Kriebel’s Tableau Tips — Use this curated list of Tableau tips from Zen Master Hall-of-Famer, Andy Kriebel to learn new chart types.
  2. VizCandy —Zen Master, Kelly Martin’s blog is a treasure trove of tips and tricks for inspiration, dashboard best practices, and analytics use cases.
  3. Tableau Reference Guide for Tableau Learning — Zen Master, Jeffrey Schaffer, maintains this guide to learn how to graph, color, calculate, map and visualize your data using Tableau.
  4. Workout Wednesday for Tableau Skills — Show your Tableau chops every Wednesday by recreating an existing Tableau visualization. Even if you run into a roadblock, you can download the original workbook and work back from there, making it a great challenge to learn more advanced skills.
  5. Makeover Monday for Design and Presentation Skills — A weekly community-led challenge that provides you with a viz and data set. Your challenge is to create a better version of the visualization in your own creative way­­—either by telling the data story more effectively or discovering something new in the data.
  6. Viz For Social Good — Help empower nonprofits through data visualization. Put your design skills to good use by vizzing for social good!
  7. Sport Viz Sundays — Join people from the Tableau community in an interactive sports + Tableau-themed challenge to learn techniques and data design tips. See a sports viz worth sharing? Use #sportsvizsunday to connect with other fans.

An effective dashboard engages and informs your audience. You can learn more about data viz design and find other resources on the Tableau Community forums. What are your favorite resources for learning about data visualization? Tag us on Twitter @tableau to share!

You might also be interested in...

Subscribe to our blog