Chapter 24. How to Make Sparklines

Sparklines are condensed graphs or charts that can be used in-line with text or grouped to show trends across several different measures. The term sparkline was introduced by Edward Tufte, a data visualization pioneer, and proponent of the chart type. Sparklines are typically so small that the chart itself usually does not contain familiar context that you would find in a full-size chart, such as axes. Despite this limitation, I find sparklines to be one of the most effective corporate chart types for quickly communicating trends across KPIs. After all, you can always provide context in the surrounding text, and if you are using Tableau, context can be added through other approaches such as tooltips (the information that appears when you hover over a data point).

It is very common for sparklines to be a foundational piece of the corporate dashboards I create. I think they are a great place to guide an end user to start, so I usually place sparklines in a prominent area of my dashboards, such as down the left side. For more on dashboard layout and design, see tip five in Chapter 90.

How to Make Sparklines in Tableau

Sparklines are easy, and (dare I say?) fun, to create in Tableau. To get started, you will leverage two special fields in your data, Measure Names and Measure Values. These fields are automatically generated in your data by Tableau so they will be available to use even though they do not exist in your underlying data:

  1. PlaceMeasure ...

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