The Horizon Graph

Should you have a Horizon Graph for your dashboard? When a new information visualization technique is invented, it’s interesting news. The ones that are worthwhile find themselves in our mental toolboxes and eventually on our dashboards. Sparklines, bullet graphs, treemaps come to mind as recent inventions of note.

When a new infomation visualization technique comes out and is lauded by Stephen Few, however, then it becomes not just interesting, but important! Stephen Few, author of Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data, is the developer of the bullet graph and considered one of the leading experts in the use of data visualization for analyzing and presenting quantitative business information.

Let’s have a look at a Horizon Graph. Click to enlarge the screenshot of the chart:

Horizon Graph Example

What???? That’s my initial reaction and I bet it’s yours too.

Let us allow Stephen Few to explain what we are looking at. First some background:

As Steve explains in his latest newsletter titled Time on the Horizon, the Horizon Graph was invented by the business intelligence software vendor Panopticon.

This is not a marketing piece for Panopticon, so I’ll say little about the company except that until recently its products exclusively featured a particular visualization called a treemap. For information about treemaps, I invite you to read an article that their inventor, Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland, wrote for my newsletter back in April 2006 titled “Discovering BI Using Treemaps.” The folks at Panopticon applied the potential of treemaps in several innovative and practical ways, and are now complementing their products with the addition of several traditional graphical displays (for example, bar and line graphs), including a few new variations on these themes. One of these variations is called a horizon graph.

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