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the essential guide to designing a polished dashboard

The Essential Guide to Designing a Polished Dashboard

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Creating a dashboard that looks polished can seem tricky, especially if you do not have any previous experience with design. Our Graphic Design Extraordinaire, Michelle Chung, has gathered simple tips you can use to transform your dashboard to make it look sleek and beautiful.


Have a look at our essential dashboard design guide for tips on how to:

    1. 1. Create Your Layout
    2. 2. Define Your Colors
    3. 3. Simplify Your Charts
    4. 4. Communicate with Icons
    5. 5. Add Photos and Illustrations


    1. 1. Create Your Layout​

To start, plan out your layout, as it is the foundation of good design. Make sure the layout accommodates the amount of data properly. Each chart should have enough space. Do not try to fit too many elements onto one slide, as that results in a cluttered and overwhelming-looking dashboard. Instead, make use of margins and white space to give a lighter feel that is easier to navigate.

chart sizes in dashboard.
Image 1: The image on the left has big and heavy charts, whereas the right one has more white space and smaller design elements.

    1. 2. Define Your Colors

Using a color scheme can instantly elevate your design as it makes your dashboard more cohesive and attractive. Keep it simple and stick to two to four colors, excluding neutral colors (such as white, grey, or black), since multiple neutrals can be added without disturbing the design. Really try to limit your palette since too many contrasting colors can create confusion and an overall cluttered look.

dashboard color palettes

Image 2: Examples of color palettes. 

With that being said, there are exceptions. You can use more colors if you are using different shades of the same colors.

simple dashboard color palette

Image 3: Example of how a dashboard with a larger color palette can look harmonious by using different shades of the same colors.

Lastly, make sure that the colors you are using complement each other. For a cohesive color palette, do not mix muted colors with vibrant colors. If you need help choosing the right colors there are great online color palette generators online, one of them is Coolors.

muted vs saturated color palette

Image 4: Muted vs. Saturated color palette.

    1. 3. Simplify Your Charts

The look of charts can also have a great impact on the overall design. If you find your dashboard too cluttered and heavy-looking, try to simplify gridlines and use a lighter shade.

table with and without gridlines

Image 5: Example of dark gridlines for every cell compared to light gridlines only on rows.

Charts should look as simple as possible in order to enhance comprehension. Remove redundant information such as double labels, or unnecessary elements like shadows and (sometimes) gridlines.

charts with and without gridlines

Image 6: Double labels and gridlines are removed on the chart to the right for a cleaner and easier-to-read chart.

    1. 4. Communicate with Icons

Icons are great not only for visual appeal but also for efficient communication. An easy way to incorporate them is to have one representing each KPI. You can also use dynamic icons to visualize the data. However, make sure not to go overboard, having icons everywhere can make the dashboard look overwhelming.

using icons in dashboards

Image 7: Icons for each KPI vs. dynamic icons.

    1. 5. Add Photos and Illustrations

Design elements such as photos and illustrations can draw interest to your dashboard. They can be used for decorative purposes – making your dashboard more visual and attractive. You could also use these elements to illustrate what the data is referring to, thereby complementing and supporting the data.

decorative illustration in dashboard

Image 8: Example of decorative illustration used to achieve visual appeal.

image supporting data in dashboard

Image 9: Example of images used to support the data. 


Get in touch

This blog post was prepared as a part of the Data Visualization in Action series by the Dapresy Services team. If you need advice from our data visualization experts, want to chat about your data, or be inspired – get in touch with us at We are here to support you to tell your story in an interesting, inspiring, and results-oriented way.

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