How to create custom shapes in Tableau

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Following on from my article on creating custom colours, I thought it would be a good idea to also talk about custom shapes.

They are used much less than custom colours, at least from my observations, but can still be very useful to convey information, emotion, tell a story and achieve buy-in through branding.

Custom shapes in general can be anything you want, e.g. arrows, circles, icons, logos, pictures of animals, cars, buttons, etc.

Pulling together these shapes in order to use them on your dashboards is a very simple process and there is one significant shortcut I want to share with you. Let’s get into it!

I am working on the assumption that you have already made a decision on what shapes you need to tell your story and to communicate your information most effectively. Let’s say you want to build a dashboard about car sales across Australia…

Step 1:

Get Google to find some awesome shapes for you.

Picture1

Instead of using the straight up images that result, however, let’s refine our search…

Picture2

We want the colour to be transparent, which means the images will have no background, which is important when we use them in Tableau. If we don’t have the transparency we generally have a white box/background around the image which is not cool. The easiest way to get the right shapes is to set the colour to ‘transparent’ in your Google search.

Pick all the images you need and save them to the Shapes folder in your Tableau Repository.

Tableau Repository

You want to set up a folder for your set of custom shapes or add them to an existing subfolder…

Custom shapes 2

Now all the pre-work is done and you can start visualising. Build your viz with a dimension on the shapes marks card, then click on shapes to edit them and select the new folder from the drop down menu.

You will then have to assign the individual shapes to the members of your dimension.

Cars dashboard

And that’s really all there is to it :-).
Have fun creating lots of cool vizzes with custom shapes, logos, pictures, etc. Let me know if any of the above steps were not clear and I’ll do my best to update them to be even easier to follow.

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