Dashboard Rescue with Excel MVP Michael Alexander


In this episode, Excel TV guest Excel MVP Michael Alexander joins Excel TV host Rick Grantham and cohosts Excel Author Szilvia Juhasz and Excel MVP Jordan Goldmeier in discussing the DO’s and DON’T’s of data visualization…..avoiding the dreaded ice cream sandwich syndrome!

Data visualization can enhance the message you want your metrics to display if you avoid the following crimes against data.  Before plugging in that clip art, consider these questions:

  • Who wore it best?

  • What would (Steve) Few do?

  • How??? Crimes against data viz.. Can they be stopped?

Take a ride with the Excel crew as they analyze these worst offenders! What didn’t work and what they should have done.

Example 1.  Education Dashboard


In Example 1, the message being presented relates to the level of education of some population in percentages.

Rick:  Scores about a 3. There is no sequential order of sections.  There is no story telling Postgrad is better than High School and College is better than Postgrad.

Jordan:  It’s a bubble chart and the percentage numbers don’t match with the bubbles.  No clear message is being conveyed.

Michael: Lame “ice cream sandwich” graphics!  Bad colors and clip art.  Clip art dashboards must be executed well or left out! I agree with Rick that is should have been a simple bar chart ordered sequentially.

Final take away – Infographics can be cool, but make sure the message is clearly conveyed.  And avoid handless people with ice cream sandwiches. 

Example 2.  Polls Dashboard


Just in time for election season, Szilvia presents this donut chart for the Excel TV expert panel.

Beyond the donut obsession and the obvious poor use of color, i.e., Red = No and Green = Yes, flip-flopped, the question “Does this even need a graphic?” jumps out!

Michael: Too many words!  I’m never going to read this!

Jordan: Does it even need a graphic?  People forget the data is the message and not the art or fun stuff.

Rick: There are actually two questions in the graphic and it is not obvious to which question the data applies.

Final score: 3.

Take away – Data visualization should be instantly obvious.

Example 3.  3D Pie Charts Dashboard


Szilvia presents pie charts as the most abused graphic and 3D makes it worse!

Michael: 3D is outdated.  It is like 1996 or wearing a white glove to work ala Michael Jackson.

Jordan: Microsoft added 3D pie charts probably just to show capability of their technology and the market share of Windows.

Rick: Minus 10 score for Zach Barresse! Zach said, “Don’t get me started on 3D charts in Excel.” Enough said.

Take away – Just because you can do 3D doesn’t mean you should!

Example 4. Venn Diagrams in a Dashboard


Szilvia highlights how bad this graphic is.

Michael: Read as a Venn diagram, this graphic says that 95% of the people at Thomson Reuter’s values don’t include Trust, Partnership, Innovation, or Performance.  Nerds are laughing over this marketing graphic.  The context has to fit to use a Venn diagram.  Venn Diagrams are good for presentations or PowerPoints.

Take away – If you don’t know what a Venn diagram is, don’t use it!

Moving on to COLOR SCHEMES in Dashboards

Color scheme specimen 1.


Rick: Proportion filled charts are horrible; blows on ALL levels. Just put it into a pie chart – and pie charts blow!  It looks like Jordan Goldmeier’s Excel maze or Ant Farm!

Szilvia: Looks like Hippie wedding sand art. Bad color and 3D.

Jordan: The axis doesn’t start at 0 and you can’t tell proportions from this graphic. I suggest a line chart for this data.

Michael:  Is this actually a painting or a chart? It is South Parky and looks like layered construction paper. It would be better as a painting on your bank’s wall!

Final score – 8 for Corporate Art and a 1 for a dashboard.

Color scheme specimen 2.  Space Race


Szilvia: Classic example of way too much information on a single page!

Rick: It looks like the Donkey Kong maze and I expect to see Donkey Kong at the top throwing barrels down trying to crush people.

Jordan: Too much irrelevant data on the timeline.

Michael: It looks like the map of the subway system in Washington DC.  Turn it into an infographic.

Final analysis – send it back to space!

And there you have the results from the Excel TV expert panel with guest host Excel MVP Michael Alexander.

Lesley Davidson
Latest posts by Lesley Davidson (see all)


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