How to highlight a table in Tableau with icons and shapes

When creating dashboards, visual elements don’t have to be limited to the data visualizations alone, they can also extend to other components to help the user process and understand the information faster.

An effective way to do that is to use icons or images in the header, helping users distinguish members easier, as well as highlighting values in the table with shapes to break up a series of columns making the overall data easier to read.

Today we will see how we can improve the overall readability of a simple table with 2 simple tricks.

In the example below we will be using the Superstore data set.

Step 1 – Add Icons to the header

On Columns create 2 MIN(0) calculation to generate the 2 columns you will be using.

Add Sub-Category on Rows.

Do the following formatting steps:

→ Right click on MIN(0) → deselect “Show Header”

→ Right-click on Sub-Category →  deselect “Show Header”

→ Right-click on the view a Format

Go to Borders and Remove Column Divider and add levels for Row Divider.

Go to Lines and Remove Grid Lines and Zero Lines from Column.

Fit the visualization to the entire view.

Next, use the marks pane to populate the two columns as described below.

For the first MIN(0):

→ Create a calculated field using the formula LEFT([Category],1) and drag it on Label

→ Change the Mark Type to Circle and increase its size

→ Add Category to Color

→ Go to Label and Alignment and set it to Middle Center

→ Go to Label and Font and increase the size of the text and change its colour to make it more visible

For the second MIN(0):

→ Change the Mark Type to Gantt Bar

→ Add Sub-Category to Label

→ Increase the text and change the colour

→ Set Color → Opacity to 0%

Step 2 – Create a shape highlight 

In a new sheet, use the same formatting as before and add as many MIN(0) fields on Columns as you want to use.

After you assign the measures you want to see for each MIN(0) column, choose the one you want to highlight and apply the following steps:

→ Change the Mark Type to Shape

→ Choose a shape, preferably a rectangle

→ Apply a calculation on colour (i.e., IF SUM([Profit]) < 0 THEN “red” ELSE “green” END)

→ Assign colours for red and green

→ Centre the Label and edit it to make it more visible

Place the two sheets next to each other in a dashboard and remove the padding for both of them.

Watch the video tutorial here:


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