When we speak about a style guide designed for dashboards, it includes all the components typically found in a style guide like colors, fonts, and layouts. It also contains components that are unique for dashboards like KPIs, filters, charts, graphs, etc.
A style guide for dashboards will also take into account the tool (e.g. Tableau, Qlik, Looker, etc.) that is being used for the dashboards׳ development and its limitations.
Some may refer to the style guide as a “template” — and that might work in some cases. However, the fact is that a template would not always answer the needs. This is why we like to think of a style guide as the “designer’s toolbox” rather than a template. The Idea is to use the different components in a “mix and match” way. Using this method, one can assure she has some visual flexibility while maintaining consistency and adhering to the brand’s “look and feel”.
These are the basic components that create a style guide designed for dashboards:
A Grid is a technical term that defines a system of lines in which the designer can consistently organize graphic elements (e.g headlines, graphs, etc.). It is recommended to design all dashboards from the same series using an identical grid in order to create similarity and consistency.
A consistent colors palette should be used in all dashboards. Best practice would be to divide the colors into main and secondary colors and define a “rule” for each color: background color, headings colors graphs’ colors, etc.
A specific font (or fonts) should be used in all dashboards using different weights. Some weights will be used for headings while others will be used for text or diagrams. It is important to understand that a typeface is a basic design component. It is one of the ingredients which determines what will be the “feel” of the dashboard.
Usually, when planning a style guide for the organization’s dashboards, one should use an existing logo or brand visuals. It is important to educate the developers about the importance of respecting the logo and the company’s brand — using the logo as is without changing its colors, proportions or shape. The style guide also determines where to place the logo on the screen and in what size to use it.
Icons can emphasize KPIs or any other dashboard components. They can also create visual interest and break the monotonous pattern of diagrams and graphs. However, it is extremely important to use a specific icon set that is visually connected to the general visual language of the brand.
The style guide should cover all the elements that may appear in a dashboard- tables, charts, filters, KPIs — and should explain how to style them and how to place them on the selected grid. This description should include all the possible states of the components (e.g. selected/ deselected, empty/no data, etc.)
After collecting all the ingredients it is time to mix them up and create showcases. A good practice would be to create 3–5 dashboards templates which are based on the style guide and to use all the ingredients in different ways.
That is it! you are good to go
After creating showcases, it is time to try the style guide with real data and real numbers. Sometimes while using a style guide, some questions might pop up — which the style guide does not answer. That would be the time to go back and make experience-based decisions in the style guide.
If you’re not sure where to start, I invite you to read more about designing a dashboard from scratch in our 10 Dashboard Design Thumb Rules guide.