Building your own Style

In October of 2016 I started publishing work out to Tableau Public, and when I started I didn’t give my personal “style guide” much thought. I would let the format, fonts, sizes and colors go where my mind wandered and didn’t give it a second thought. I look at my portfolio now and I cringe a little bit because of it, but the one thing it does show is growth. (Never delete anything from your Tableau Public profile! The growth is as important as the content)

In the last 3 months or so I’m been trying to build my own brand, or “House Style” as Mark Edwards put it once. If you are vizzing for a specific project (Viz for Social Good for example) there is generally a style guide for you to follow. For those times when you are vizzing for “fun” and you are interested in crafting your own style here are a few things you may consider.

The best testing ground that I have found is the Superstore Sales sample workbook that comes with your Tableau install. This workbook give you a little bit of everything and you can focus on the aesthetics not the structure as you build you style guide.

Titles and Texts

Font choices and and styles can be a bit overwhelming when you start formatting your vizzes, but one thing to bear in mind is that Tableau Public doesn’t support a ton of different font styles. You can safely choose from the “Tableau Family” of fonts or from the following list:

  • Arial
  • Comic Sans
  • Courier New
  • Georgia
  • Lucida San Unicode
  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana

Anything else you risk being defaulted to the closest Serif or San Serif font available and the results may not be what you intended. If you want to use a font outside the “safe list” then you may want to create images in PowerPoint for your titles and texts, but bear in mind you will need something else for the rest of the text on your viz (axis/numbers, tooltips, etc)

If you are mixing fonts, be sure and check out this 10 tips from Canva on combining fonts.

Viz Styling

This can be played around with a bit, but in general there are some things you can try and make consistent. Here are a few small things to consider.

For line charts, do you use a thin line, a medium weight line or a thicker line? Dots for marks or no dots along the line?

For scatter charts (or circle charts), do you outline your circles? Do you adjust the transparency?

For bar charts, do you outline your bars? Do you adjust the spacing/size?

For area charts, do you outline you areas?

You get the idea, but there are lots of small formatting things you can do on a visualization that can help define your personal style.

Colors

By far this is where I struggle the most, and it is by far where I have spent the bulk of my time in trying to build my style guide (and it’s the one area that I’m not done creating yet). From the background colors, to the sheet colors, to the colors in the viz and the texts… there is a lot to consider and bring in to harmony.

First, let’s think about the scenarios that you may encounter in your viz.

  • Background Color(s) – White? Black? Shades of Grey? Something else? Different colors look differently on different backgrounds
  • Titles and Text colors – What will work to stand out, differentiate, but not “take over” the viz?
  • Base color – If you have a single line viz, a BAN, or just one measure that you are visualizing throughout the viz what will be your one consistent color?
  • Categorical colors – If you have dimensional values you are visualizing, what will be your categorical palette?
  • Sequential and Diverging colors – If you are visualizing sequential or diverging values, what will those palettes consist of?
  • Highlight colors – If you have a single value you want to emphasize, who color will highlight those?

Then… how do all those colors look together? It can be maddening!

Here are a few places you could start in regards to color:

Monochromatic – Taking a single hue and varying the tint you can generate a nice color palette to use.

Complementary – Complimentary color palettes take two colors, directly across the color wheel from one another. Examples include Red/Green, Blue/Orange and Yellow and Purple.

Analogous – Analogous palettes, or adjacent colors, are three colors next to each other on the color wheel, then by varying the tint you can come up with a larger palette

Triadic – Triadic palettes use a triangle to select three colors on the color wheel.

Tetradic – Tetradic palettes use a square to select four colors from the color wheel. It is worth noting, that these palettes can prove tough to make “look good”

 

These palettes were all created with the Paletton tool, which I highly recommend. Not only does it build your palettes fairly effortlessly, it can also check your palettes for color deficiency effectiveness.

If you want to do something a bit more custom, you can use images to build a truly custom color palette using Canva’s Color Palette Generator.

This tool can take any uploaded image and generate a really nice, 5 color, palette for you to use.

Once you land on a color palette, I would recommend building a custom palette within Tableau so that your colors are easily accessible.  For a detailed walk-through of creating a custom palette check out Tableau’s knowledge base.

Once you make notes of what you want for a style guide, start applying it to the Superstore Sample workbook. Keep playing with it until you are happy, and don’t be afraid to get some feedback from the community or from co-workers. If you want, I put together a simple template you are free to use, just click here.

In the end, your style guide with shift and evolve as you grow with the tool. don’t be afraid of the changes, embrace them!

Other thoughts or tips? Please share in the comments below!

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