The Dashboard Spy

October 10, 2006

Excel Executive Dashboard with Sparklines – big ideas for small enterprise dashboards

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — dashboardspy @ 10:37 am

Thanks to the Dashboard Spy in Germany who sent us this wonderful excel executive dashboard to study. It features an amazing amount of information packed into a tiny space (which is what the at-a-glance nature of the dashboard is all about!). The big secret, of course, is the tiny, little device called the Sparkline. Invented by the truly innovative Edward Tufte, it is a clever inline way to give a user a sense of scale, trend and historic movement of a statistic.

The dashboard itself deals with airline management. If it looks familiar to you, an earlier version of this airline dashboard graced the pages of the Dashboard Spy blog several weeks ago. It was the winner of a business intelligence contest. This current version is smaller and, in my opinino, cooler.

As Andreas from pointed out, this sparkline-driven excel dashboard is really optimized to be tiny:

All figures are formatted with Gill Sans MT 8 pt. The sparklines are formatted with Micro Line Charts 8 pt. The whole dashboard presents 340 figures on 420 x 420 pixels screen real estate. We build new hinted fonts that allow us to format colored sparklines as small as 8 pt without faint or hidden lines.

It was built with the new release of MicroCharts:

 Here is the executive dashboard. Take a look at these great sparklines!

Sparkline Excel Dashboard

Homework: If you have not been exposed to Edward Tufte’s work, you must browse these pages of books by Tufte. Design and information architecture are the most critical items to an enterprise dashboard’s success. Particularly with the executive crowd, know what you are doing in terms of laying out the dashboard. Well worth studying is this lavishly illustrated book, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.

So what or who is The Dashboard Spy? As his about page states, The Dashboard Spy is just a guy interested in the design of enterprise dashboards. He could not find any executive dashboard design source books (or even screenshots of real business dashboards) and so set about creating his own. Finally convinced to post his extensive collection of dashboard screenshots online, he was amazed to find how popular it has become. If you have a digital dashboard, balanced scorecard, or any business intelligence graphic to share, send an email to info _at_ Also check out The Dashboard Spy’s books on enterprise dashboards. His current favorite is Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices for IT, the only book on actually implementing executive dashboards.

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