July 15, 2019


In the workshops I present attendees learn from each other as well as from me.  Here are two oh-so-brilliant ideas that came from attendees.

How to get your organization away from using green and red

As Kelly Martin has written, in addition to red and green being so hard to “un-ugly”, if any of your dashboard users are colorblind your red / green color combinations will look like a “sea of baby poo.”

But you may get some resistance from people when you try to replace the red or the green with something else. That’s what happened to one workshop attendee when she tried to get people to use a red and blue dashboard. She was told “please revert to the way we’ve always done it and use red and green.”

So, what did this person do?

Over the course of six months she gradually altered the green, adding a little bit of blue to it, so that you really couldn’t see any changes on a day-to-day basis. But at the end of the six months, the green was now completely blue. 

Brilliant. It reminds me of developing an immunity to iocane powder from The Princess Bride.

Figure 1 – How one resourceful data visualization specialist weened her company off of red and green.
Turn the green into blue. Gradually.

And as far as her stakeholders were concerned, they had always used red and blue!

Using dark background dashboards to change behavior

During the workshop attendees and I will engage in a discussion of the pros and cons of dashboards that use dark backgrounds. This affords me the opportunity to showcase the superb work of Adam Crahen and Curtis Harris from Pluralsight.

Figure 2 — An example of a dark background dashboards you’ll find from Pluralsight.

(If you are wondering why you see so many dark background dashboards from Pluralsight it is because the core consumers of these particular dashboards are coders and the coders tend to prefer screens with dark backgrounds.)

I ask attendees before they consider whether dashboards with dark backgrounds would be a good or bad idea for their organization, what is the one question they should ask first?

“Will people need to print the dashboard?”

If the answer is “yes”, then, unless you are a shareholder in Epson or HP, you should NOT create dashboards with dark backgrounds as it’s printing will require a ridiculous amount of ink and / or toner…

… and that’s exactly why one organization did adopt dark background dashboards. They didn’t want people (particularly senior management) to print them. And if somebody did print them, the CFO went ballistic. 

The experiment worked! People stopped printing.

Again, brilliant.

Now, must you use a dark background dashboard, or might a Financial Times-like tan-colored dashboard, which is my personal preference, work? I’m not sure but I suspect anything that places a time and money premium on printing would help ween people off printing, and I think that’s a great thing.

Anyone else?

Do you have any examples where you “nudged” people towards desirable behavior using some type of benevolent data visualization manipulation? I’d love to hear about it.