Lets Pimp a Gauge Chart [Chart Porn Friday]

Posted on November 6th, 2009 in Charts and Graphs - 26 comments

Egil, one of our alert readers from Norway sent this to me in e-mail, which I swear, I am not making up – A Fancy Gauge Chart. See the e-mail and chart yourself.
Fancy Gauge Chart - Excel

I’m having a lot of fun with your gauge template :)
To make it more industrial-like, I’ve added:
1. Brushed metal background picture
2. Gradient fill format to the pie shares
3. A gradient fill. semi-transparent square (to make glass effect)
4. Sqrew-head pics

The original gauge chart template behind Egil’s industrious effort caused enough debate among our community.

I think gauges are a poor way to visualize data, but I don’t completely shoot them down either. Gauges connect well with certain type of audience / situations – like kids, informal communications, conveying just one point etc. But it would be disastrous to have a gauge chart on your weekly dashboard to the CFO, no matter how industrial-like it is.

Download Egil’s version of the Gauge

Click here to download the fancy gauge chart template. Thanks Egil for your idea. I think it is pimptastic.

Anyways, here is a fun challenge:

Download the gauge, and pimp it in your style. Take a screenshot, upload it somewhere and link it here. I want to see how you would pimp it.

And if you are furious to see a gauge chart on this blog, remember, and I am not making this up either, today is Friday. Have fun folks.

PS: yes, I am HUGE fan of Dave Barry, and no, I am not making this up.

Added later: Just to be clear, I think Egil‘s implementation is pretty cool and shows what is possible with excel.

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26 Responses to “Lets Pimp a Gauge Chart [Chart Porn Friday]”

  1. Jon Peltier says:

    Pimp it enough, and the data point won’t matter.

  2. Michael says:

    Dood. That’s in seriously bad taste. I will be unsubscribing and am embarrased I recommended others subscribe.

  3. Chandoo says:

    @Jon… Agree. As I said early on, this is a fancy example of poor visualization choice. But I am still amazed at what is possible in excel.

    @Michael: I am sorry to know that. Can you tell me what part of this post made you think so? Is it the commentary or the chart?

  4. Eric Lind says:

    I think Michael thought your critisism of gauge charts was directed at Egil, rather than the type or genre of chart itself.

    I agree with you however that a gauge chart like this, by itself, is usually not sufficient to address what the data means. We know, for example, that averages are insufficient to address statistics without also knowing the size, volatility, and dispersion of the data, which a gauge chart can’t address by itself. Pair this chart with a deviation bell curve, frequency histogram, or other such things and it becomes very powerful.

    And Chandoo, I think your blog is immensely helpful and looks at a large variety of techniques that are really useful. I’ve used a number of your techniques in spreadsheets I’ve made. :)

  5. sixseven says:

    Been a long time lurker, first time poster… I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce myself. I think my guage speaks for itself. It is a combination scatter/donut chart. I like using the scatter chart instead of the pie chart for the guage needle because you have more options to customize the needle. Here it is:

    http://cid-8656a60062744f0c.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/.Public/UnicornSales.jpg

    Happy Friday!

    -sixseven

  6. Chandoo says:

    @All.. just to be clear, I think Egil’s implementation is pretty cool. that is why I have shared it here with all of you. The post is not meant to mock Egil’s work. The criticism is aimed at the gauges themselves. Also, I tried to be sarcastic, as a tribute to Dave.

    @Sixseven.. Welcome to PHD. That is one hell of a unicorn sales ad. Loved it very much.

    @Eric: Good points. I would also recommend using bullet charts (http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/07/21/dashboard-bullet-graphs-excel/ ) and min-max charts (http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/08/11/min-max-excel-charts/ )

  7. Chandoo says:

    @Sixseven.. doh! I mean unicorn sales chart…

  8. Jon Peltier says:

    Sixseven -

    You missed a golden opportunity to pimp your chart by using a unicorn horn for the needle.

    Gauge charts do in fact speak for themselves. They say, “My creator didn’t know or care enough about data presentation to make a useful chart.”

    The only benefit of a bullet chart over a gauge is that it takes up less space to display the same small amount of data. Showing one point in time is not very informative.

    It is better to show how the value changes in a time series, or to show how the whole distribution looks, not just the average, or median, or whatever measure you’ve singled out.

  9. sixseven says:

    Jon,
    I actually thought of that, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it… If anyone knows how, please share… :)

    All,
    I wasn’t trying to mock Egil. I just wanted to have some fun on a Friday.

    Regarding gauges, I read some of the previous posts on gauges her and on Jon’s blog, and while there was a lot of conversation on presenting more information, I don’t remember seeing anything on the target audience. As an MBA grad that loves information/data, for me, more detail is better. But many times I am preparing reports for people that do not share this mindset. Perhaps they have been successful in their business because of their instincts… Others may be shining examples of the “Peter Principle” and are too inept to read a detailed chart… My point is that while a gauge may be pretty weak from a communicative perspective, sometimes is all the target audience wants, needs, or can handle.

    Happy Friday!

    -sixseven

  10. Anonymous says:

    Michael said, “Dood. That’s in seriously bad taste”. Chart or commentary? Don’t know, but I’m embarrassed by tone, all “pimping” and “chart porn” language. You’re a nice guy and only mean to be amusing, but the real meaning behind the words you play with signify sorrow, slavery, and silent tragedies. And to some, that hits close to home. Please, re-consider tone.

  11. Chandoo says:

    @Anon… thanks I will keep this in mind.

  12. Jon Peltier says:

    Hey Anon -

    Lighten up, man. Or unsubscribe, whatever.

    For a long time now, “pimping” has referred to the act of overdecorating something. “Pimp My Ride” is an MTV series devoted to take a beat up car, and make it sparkle.

    And “Chart Porn” is the name of another blog.

  13. Egil Nilsen says:

    Hi,

    This is Egil, the creator himself :)
    It’s fun to see all comments on my pimping. It was initially just for fun and to make results visible from a distance on big plasma screens…

    This chart is actually in Daily use in a project management system and shows the overall performance on one or a group of customers.

    I agree that this should not be used for acounting purposes and others demanding precision data. However, after implementing this one in the pm system, my employees suddenly takes actions like never before! :) The numbers and bar graphs however has been available for years and still are..

    Nowadays people are saying “WOW, this one is on RED now!” Let’s do something.

    So I think this works grat as an extra motivation to have another look at the precise numbers -and then make wise actions.

    Thanks for all inputs, I’ll post more versions soon :)

  14. jeff weir says:

    Chandoo…best post title yet. If you don’t get slightly smutty at least once a year then I’ll have to resort to getting my naughtyness from google search rather than google reader.

    Micheal and anon…don’t forget to unsubscribe from the Data Pig blog while you’re at it…the Sunday bacon recipes are in much worse taste.

    Here’s my entry. http://screencast.com/t/GWj6uQNNB Chandoo..check it out. obviously you need to crank it up further before you reach ‘optimum’
    What do I win?

  15. Chandoo says:

    @Egil… thanks for sharing your experience. While charting purists (including me) advice not to use gauges, the fact remains they are one of the most effective ways to communicate one data / view point. The same applies for other such metaphorical charts like thermo-meters, traffic lights. They are not the best, but the give biggest bang for bucks when it comes to saying one and only one thing. May be gauges continue to live until we, humans evolve to judge charts better.

    @Jeff.. now that is an encouraging comment. While I tried to be diplomatic with both M & A, the fact remains that as a community, we are too cool to let one title or post define what this is all about.

    and yeah, you do win a donut… just hop in to a train, get to air port, get in a plane, transit somewhere (I suggest Paris, but Istanbul is ok too), come to Copenhagen, Take Bus no. 5A, get down at Norrebro rundel and shout, “Chandoo, Bro, Where are you?”… I will come down with the donut.

  16. sharon says:

    Well, as a teacher I LOVE the gauge. The only problem is I need two more colors added…orange and dark green! We use a program called Datadirector and the colors denote levels of proficiency ranging from red, orange, yellow, green, dark green (far below basic, below basic, basic, proficient, advanced). I have been searching for a great visual to post scores both individually, whole class, grade level, and school-wide. If there is anyone out there that would like to help create the template, I would be forever indebted!

  17. Patrick says:

    Parabéns
    Esse Dashboard “Gauge” é fantástico!
    Abrs.

  18. hellomoto says:

    I am a new 2007 user and I’ve never created gauges before… downloaded the template and saw that the needle and gauge are separate charts that are combine to create the final chart. How do you combine the two charts?

    I also checked out the dashboard templates and they do the same thing (combine multiple small charts into one big on)

    Thanks in advance

  19. hellomoto says:

    Or what is key term that I can use to do a search? I’ll start with stacked charts.

  20. Chandoo says:

    @Hellomoto: You can do this in 2 ways.

    1) Make different charts, remove the plot and chart area fill colors (by setting them to none). Now put one chart on top of another.

    2) Make combination charts. Here is a useful page on that. http://chandoo.org/wp/tag/combination-charts/

  21. hellomoto says:

    #1 was my first guess. After reading a few more tutorials, I am starting to understand #2. Basically, plot all the data in the same chart , then change the chart type of the each data series and modify the formatting. The most formatting I’ve ever done to a graph was add second axis and remove grid lines and fill. Thanks Chandoo for clearing that up.

  22. Biju George says:

    Hi,

    I found an excellent gauge in the link below:
    http://www.ucmapi.com/chart/gauge.php#top

    The also has instructions on how to construct it in excel. But unfortunately, the instructions are not correct. So you end up nowhere.

    Can you try it, and get us a download? It’s really worth giving a try!

    Best Regards,
    Biju George

  23. gsvirdi says:

    Not able to download the xls file due to content filtering in office (sad), but I liked this idea. Sure I can fit this chart in everybody’s life by using it in “my deliverables” checklist. But surely it needs modifications accordingly and experts like u all can only help.
    So what’s my idea? Use this chart to track the document delivery:
    Let’s say I have a document which is to be issued 5 days from today. Here this chart can be used to show the number of remainng days for Issuing of that document. Red: Quick action required, yellow: comfortable time, and green: enough time. say I feel that 1day=red, 3days=yellow, and >5days=green. I’m sure nobody here wants their documents to get delayed. This can work as a quick reminder of days remining.
    Modifications: I’d suggest to:
    1. add a sheet with a list of documents, and their date of issue (updated by the user)
    2. Below the chart a drop down list can have the list of documents,
    3. when a user selects the document name… Bang!!! The chart speaks-up about the deliverable date. :)

  24. db says:

    Not able to download the xls file due to content filtering in office (sad), but I liked this idea. Sure I can fit this chart in everybody’s life by using it in “my deliverables” checklist. But surely it needs modifications accordingly and experts like u all can only help.
    So what’s my idea? Use this chart to track the document delivery:
    Let’s say I have a document which is to be issued 5 days from today. Here this chart can be used to show the number of remainng days for Issuing of that document. Red: Quick action required, yellow: comfortable time, and green: enough time. say I feel that 1day=red, 3days=yellow, and >5days=green. I’m sure nobody here wants their documents to get delayed. This can work as a quick reminder of days remining.
    Modifications: I’d suggest to:
    1. add a sheet with a list of documents, and their date of issue (updated by the user)
    2. Below the chart a drop down list can have the list of documents,
    3. when a user selects the document name… Bang!!! The chart speaks-up about the deliverable date.

  25. Danielle Sz says:

    I happen to love the tone of this blog and yes I understand that pimp and porn have very bad connotations….at the same time though it makes this material lighter and more interesting for people like me let’s say who aren’t excel pros yet and don’t have a PhD and may be rather young and surrounded in pop culture where words like pimp are thrown around…I guess it depends who your target audience is but I find the overall tone of this blog very refreshing.

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