Tim Kent's Blog

SSRS 2008 – Icon Charts

In my last post I had a bit of a moan about the lack of new data visualisation features in PerformancePoint Services but to be fair MSFT have really turned up the dial on the data visualisation functionality with the release of Excel 2007 and SSRS 2008.  SQL 2008 R2 sees further advances with features such as Sparklines, Data Bars and indicators being far easier to create in SSRS.  There’s still a few things missing from the stack though when compared against some of the pureplay visualisation vendors such as Tableau and Spotfire.

Icon Charts (I’m not actually sure that’s their real name!) are another form of Tufte’s “small multiple” that combines the concepts of lattice/trellis charts and heatmaps.  This type of visualisation utilises the user’s perception of colour (hue) and form (size) to allow analysis of multiple categories with multiple quantitative measures.

I was hoping that it might be possible to do something with the new indicators in R2 and though you can use custom images there’s no simple way to hook them up to the data in terms of size and colour.

In this solution (workaround/hack?) I’m using the matrix object again but rather than using an inline chart I’m simply using a square symbol (letter n) from the wingdings font and then setting the colour (with a sequential palette) and size according to the data.  My example uses hard-coded values in a switch statement in the expression but you could be cleverer than this and make the values percentages of the maximum in your dataset for example.


Add a couple of legends so that the viewer can clearly see what they are looking at.  It’s easy to pick out that SouthWest in Q3 had good revenue but low profit.  Is there a Problem? Add a drillthrough to detail report to allow the user to find out.


As always the sample report can be downloaded from here: IconCharts.rdl (81.36 kb)

Alternatively, e-mail devteam(at)adatis(dot)co(dot)uk for a copy.