Report and dashboard design - what we can learn from road signs

If I showed you this sign,

Road Sign - No Entry

You would know what it meant but perhaps not from which country.  What about this one?

Road Sign - Children Ahead

Now, what about this one?


You probably don’t have a clue where it's from and everything else is being inferred.  You are making assumptions.  In my world of designing reports, dashboards and business presentations, assumptions are very dangerous things as they lead to slow and often inaccurate analysis and decision making.  Wouldn't it be great if there was a single set of report, dashboard and business presentation standards to be used across all departments within an organisation, across all organisations, and across all countries?  International Business Communication Standards (IBCS®) is a set of standards that can be applied to reports, dashboards and business presentations.

In addition to reducing reaction time for analysts and decision makers, can you imagine the shorter design and development time if everyone worked off the same report, dashboard and business presentations standards?  Imagine the reduction in cost.

IBCS® rules range from using appropriate chart types, which help visually convey the desired message along with the underlying facts as quickly as possible, to...

EX 1.1 Use appropriate chart types

... using identical scaling for the same unit on the same page, which will ensure visual integrity and avoid misleading visuals, to...

CH 4.1 Use identical scale for the same unit

... unifying a message, which will assist decision makers:

UN 2.1 Unify message


And it's not just me talking about IBCS®.  IBCS® rules have been in use across Europe for a number of years. Philips, the electronics (and other industries) giant has adopted IBCS®.  Click on the image to have a read of their IBCS® journey.


The IBCS® rules are community driven and available online to anyone.  There are numerous free resources for self-education at the IBCS® website


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