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Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data [Paperback]

Stephen Few
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2006 0596100167 978-0596100162 1
Dashboards have become popular in recent years as uniquely powerful tools for communicating important information at a glance. Although dashboards are potentially powerful, this potential is rarely realized. The greatest display technology in the world won't solve this if you fail to use effective visual design. And if a dashboard fails to tell you precisely what you need to know in an instant, you'll never use it, even if it's filled with cute gauges, meters, and traffic lights. Don't let your investment in dashboard technology go to waste.

This book will teach you the visual design skills you need to create dashboards that communicate clearly, rapidly, and compellingly. Information Dashboard Design will explain how to:

  • Avoid the thirteen mistakes common to dashboard design
  • Provide viewers with the information they need quickly and clearly
  • Apply what we now know about visual perception to the visual presentation of information
  • Minimize distractions, cliches, and unnecessary embellishments that create confusion
  • Organize business information to support meaning and usability
  • Create an aesthetically pleasing viewing experience
  • Maintain consistency of design to provide accurate interpretation
  • Optimize the power of dashboard technology by pairing it with visual effectiveness

Stephen Few has over 20 years of experience as an IT innovator, consultant, and educator. As Principal of the consultancy Perceptual Edge, Stephen focuses on data visualization for analyzing and communicating quantitative business information. He provides consulting and training services, speaks frequently at conferences, and teaches in the MBA program at the University of California in Berkeley. He is also the author of Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen Few is the author of Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten (2004), Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data (2006), and Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis (2009). Stephen is recognized as a world leader in the field of data visualization and he has worked for more than 25 years as an information technology innovator, educator, and consultant. As the principal of the consultancy Perceptual Edge, he focuses on practical uses of data visualization to explore, analyze, and present quantitative information. He also teaches in the MBA program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596100167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596100162
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Few is on a mission to help organizations squeeze real value from the mounds of data that surround and threaten to bury them. Through his consultancy Perceptual Edge, Stephen teaches simple, clear, and practical data visualization techniques for analyzing and presenting quantitative information. He teaches, speaks, and consults internationally with organizations of all types and writes the quarterly Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter. He is also the author of three popular books: Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten, Second Edition, Information Dashboard Design: Displaying data for at-a-glance monitoring, Second Edition, and Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis. You can learn more about his work at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
136 of 144 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading this book I have the following positive points to make:

.. It is very well designed, it is nice to look at it.

.. Has some good ideas (but they are not original ones).

.. In general, following its advice you will be able to do a better design of dashboards and management information systems screens.

If I counted only this I would give it 5 stars, but, I think this book has some negative points. One of the points makes the author inconsistent with his own recommendations throughout the book.

The book is about designing dashboards and the major line of thought is:
- keep it simple, clean and objective.
- Use the tools (graphics and tables) in a rational way.
- don't use all the fancy features that software vendors put in their products for they will make your dashboard less effective.

But the author when writing it, forgot part of his own teachings and produced a text that is very prolixic, too many words to explain simple concepts and ideas. Lacks objectivity.

So, if you want to better understand the use of graphs, take a look at Naomi Robbins, "Creating More Effective Graphs". This book is very objective, simple and fast to read.

The second flaw is that in the examples to show how to do a well designed dashboard, the author used two types of graphs that are not available in today's softwares. One type of graph was created by the author while writing this book (bullet graphs) and the other (sparkline) is the creation of Mr.Tufte, which will appear in a future book of his. It would be more useful to see examples with the typical tools available to design a dashboard.

So, be prepared for a nice experience with pictures and graphs in a sea of words. It is an excellent book that will help design dashboards and the like. (So far is the best book on this topic).
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77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Its all about the dashboard... February 16, 2006
I am currently working (as a software developer) on building a platform which incorporates a dashboard, so this book caught my attention. I learned a lot more than I ever really wanted to know about dashboard design aesthetics, visual perception and color theory; but if you're looking for a one-stop-shop detailing dashboard design, this is the book.

From the perspective of a software developer, I found the chapter "Thirteen Common Mistakes in Dashboard Design" quite useful. It discusses (obviously) thirteen "no-nos" when designing a dashboard. It has plenty of pictures illustrating the mistakes and describing helpful alternatives. The book is quick to read, the examples and critiques are explained well and easy to follow.

Not having a design background, I don't feel qualified to comment on the content other than to say it all made sense to me. :) I did, however, loan the book to one of our in-house design guys - he said it was "pretty good" and would recommend it.

If you're directly involved in building or designing a dashboard, this book is nice because it's all about dashboards - rather than a design book with just a chapter or two on dashboards.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
One of the system architecture ideas that has waxed and waned over the years is the concept of an Information Dashboard... a single screen of data that summarizes key data points for quick monitoring by executives. But just throwing a few graphs on the web page isn't necessarily the right thing to do. Stephen Few covers the subject of dashboard design in his book Information Dashboard Design : The Effective Visual Communication of Data.

Contents: Clarifying the Vision; Variations in Dashboard Uses and Data; Thirteen Common Mistakes in Dashboard Design; Tapping Into the Power of Visual Perception; Eloquence Through Simplicity; Effective Dashboard Display Media; Designing Dashboards for Usability; Putting it All Together; Appendix; Index

For someone like me (not a whiz when it comes to graphic design) to really like a book of this nature is saying something. I actually understood everything he was writing, and I didn't think this was some self-serving "listen to me because I'm an expert" volume. The book is printed on heavy paper stock and full color, so the examples don't lose any impact in the normal translation to black and white. Lavishly illustrated with examples both good and bad, it's easy to see why some things work and some don't. Even designs that I thought "looked" professional had significant drawbacks. For instance, colors should represent the same thing throughout the page. Don't make a pie chart with a red slice if you want red to represent a danger indicator somewhere else on the screen. Minimize the non-data pixels so the eyes don't have to work at interpreting data from "fluff" (like graph lines). And when you're choosing graphing formats, make sure you choose ones which are relevant to the data being displayed.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good guidelines for dashboards & a lot of slagging August 7, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Found this book great for discussing how to better structure dashboard interfaces yet as other reviews highlight the real meat is only a fraction of the book.

I think this book suits programmers, dreamweaver artists and web project managers more than it does information designers as many of the insights are intuitive to them.

What I struggled with the most was the amount of slagging of existing systems that the author does. For all the negativity he then only has one or two examples of how it should work. Thus the real take home value is the final chapter.

I'd rather recommend - The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition,Envisioning Information ,The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don'ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures, Universal Principles of Design - Then apply their theories within the needs of the interface you're working with (Big or small screen, touch or mouse interaction, fixed or fluid layout etc) on your own as this book goes into none of that in a deep manner.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The aspect you need to recognise when presenting data visually.
I started out new to data visualisation until I came across Stephen Few's website and this book.i found his insights helpful to become aware of different ways that data implies on... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Peter Taylor
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow
I bought this book hoping to find more about the data visualization theory, but in a practical way. It was a major disappointment, and to be honest even the figures presented here... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Elio Asano
1.0 out of 5 stars Was not what I expected
I thought it would give information on creating dashboards. It just shows pictures of different types of dashboards. I could have Googled that. Very disappointed.
Published 9 months ago by C. Mazique
5.0 out of 5 stars thanks
It will be highly useful in he workspace once I find employment opportunities that will allow me to train in this area.
Published 13 months ago by cfrench
4.0 out of 5 stars Ironical, but still holds valuable lessons
In essence, LEAN out your presentation.

Remove waste and focus on important stuff. The author does present good concepts, however I feel it could have been better. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Cheng Yi Chiao
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent resource for those involved in communicating business...
Stephen Few hits it out of the park again! Like "Show Me the Numbers," he distills the elements of style into a readily absorbed and thought provoking book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent information, albeit some bitter repetition
Information Dashboard Design is an excellent book that is published consistent to what it preaches. The book itself is a delight which is easy on the eyes to read, with clear and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jon
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Good book but most concepts are already covered in many blogs on net. simple clean and clear will help as a starter
Published 15 months ago by Shree Kumar Menon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great design, great ideas
The best purchase I've made in recent times. I nominate the book to all who want to work with developing dashbords.
Published 16 months ago by Eduardo Carvalho
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
There's a reason why many consider Stephen Few the authority on data visualization. The man knows what he's talking about. Read more
Published 18 months ago by J. Easmon
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