Continuing with Design Month, let's talk custom shapes! Tableau Public provides you with plenty of awesome shapes to choose from, but sometimes you need something a little more. Custom shapes are an easy way to add a nice design touch to your vizzes and help solidify a theme.
There are a couple different cases where you may want to use custom shapes:
- To code additional data- Sometimes, the shapes add to the data. For example, I made a viz about Game of Thrones and used custom shapes of house sigils to help define allegiance. You’ll see this technique a lot in sports vizzes to display team logos. Ben Jones likes using this technique for displaying flags when talking about countries.
- As buttons- By using custom shapes and dashboard actions you can create custom buttons for your vizzes. Russell Spangler used this method to create the buttons at the top of this viz on Instagram food hashtags. Another example of this can be found in Brittany Fong’s Football Family Outing dashboard.
- To display an image- In the author profile finder viz I built, I used custom shapes to display the image of the featured viz. This is a good technique to use if you can’t have a URL box on your dashboard because you have other URL actions that you want to open in new windows.
Now that you have an idea of where custom shapes can be useful, let’s talk about implementation! Creating the shapes is easy. You can use most image formats in Tableau. PNG is recommended since it supports transparency. You don’t want white boxes around your new shapes! Just drop your image files into the folder at My Documents>My Tableau Repository>Shapes.
If you have a set of shapes that go together, it’s a good idea to give them their own folder. If not, make a folder called “Custom” to hold all of your random shapes.If you don’t see your new shapes and folders in Tableau right away, just click the “Reload Shapes” button to see what has been added.
That's all it takes! Now you can spice up your scatter plots and lollipop charts or add some sweet buttons to your vizzes!