A solid layout is the foundation of every high quality report design. In this post I will show how to implement backgrounds into Power BI and provide resources to get started.
When thinking about Data Visualization, the primary focus is almost always on which types of visuals work best with the data in hand to tell a story. Even if a report has perfect Data and Visuals, it is the responsibility of the report author to land a cohesive story that is easy for the end user to navigate.
Margins, Distribution, Consistency, and Alignment are extremely important and often overlooked. If done poorly, these elements can take attention away from the story and leave users dissatisfied and confused. Fortunately, all four of these items can be tackled quickly and easily with a well made background.
A well made Background will:
- Give structure and flow to a story
- Guide and Guardrail the creative process of finding the story
- Mask imperfection at the report level
There are many ways to build a Background for Power BI. I personally use PowerPoint for its simplicity, but more advanced graphic designers will use pro tools like Adobe Illustrator. At the end of the day, all we need to get to is a properly sized high quality image.
Avoid using shapes in Power BI to build your background
Every shape you bring into the Power BI Report directly will impact your performance, regardless if there is a query associated with it. If you bring in a single image for the background instead, you will be rendering a single element, rather than 10+ for a rich background. See the Performance Analyzer for Detail on this.
In the case where I do not have a story yet, I will start out in Power BI and identify an “Anchor Visual” to build my experience around. This would be the primary draw of your report page.
In this example I am looking at King County Health Inspection data and landed on a map to be my Anchor Visual. At this point, I will go into PowerPoint and start building my Background with this Anchor in Mind. I will then work with the shapes to determine a good layout for the remainder of the report.
If your Report page is 16:9 (Default) You can create in the Default Power Point slide size
Start with a shape that fits your Anchor visual and its position
I will then add color that goes with my branding/theme
I will now bring this background into my PBIX:
- In Power Point, Select All of your Elements
- Right Click > Save as Picture
- In Power BI Desktop, with no elements selected, open the formatting options in the Visualization pane
- Click + Add image button under “Page Background” and find your new image
- Remove any transparency on the slider
- Use drop down to Choose Image Fit: Fit
I can now position the visual in the box i created for it, and start building my story based on the other boxes I laid out for it.
If you find a key element that you want to include does not into your predetermined sections, simply modify the PPT to suit and re-load!
I can also bring in our Branding and Titles to limit how many elements are rendered within Power BI
Viewing the same visuals within the report without the background you will notice that not everything is positioned well, and the report is much harder to follow.
We now have a finished report page and can take our background and adjust our shapes to fit the needs of our remaining report pages. By keeping the same background colors/themes and redistributing our shapes we can end up with a consistent look and feel across tabs
Let me know what you think Follow on Twitter for quick tips and tricks @ChrisHamill17
Check out the Background Gallery to download the PowerPoint for this example, and check back for new Backgrounds frequently!