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UN 2  UNIFY Descriptions

  Descriptions are textual elements that describe the visual elements in reports and presentations facilitating comprehension. The following suggests unified layouts for every kind of descriptions.

UN 2.1  Unify messages

The message the author intends to convey to the reader or audience, is in the center of a report or presentation page. Messages can be determinations, indications, definitions, explanations, excuses, justifications, warnings, recommendations, etc. Typically, every report or presentation page has a message (in contrast to statistics and interactive analytic systems).


The notation of messages should be two text lines at the top of a report or presentation page.

The wording, structuring and meaning of messages is not discussed here rather in the IBCS part on "Conceptual rules".




UN 2.2  Unify titles and subtitles

Titles identify the content of pages and their objects. In contrast to messages, they do not contain any evaluating aspects, such as interpretations, conclusions or propositions. Titles describe the content of a page or an object in its entirety, omitting nothing necessary to understand the content.


In general, three to four lines suffice to completely describe the content of a page:

  • Reporting unit(s): Element(s) of the structure dimension representing the object of the report, typically a legal entity, an organization unit, or a line of business
  • Measure(s): Business measure(s) being analyzed including currency or physical units with metric prefixes where appropriate
  • Structure clause (optional):  Additional information concerning structure dimensions outlined in rows, columns or as multiples (e.g. “by products”) or analyses (e.g. “top ten products by revenue”)
  • Scenario(s), time period(s) and variance(s): Relating scenarios (e.g. AC and PL), time period (e.g. Jun 2015), and variance (e.g. ΔPY)

In general, position titles at the upper left hand side of a page below the message. If it eases comprehension, highlight the most important part of the title (e.g. the measure) using bold font.


In this example, the last line might be redundant as the charts or tables below already contain this information, but certain redundancies in titles can facilitate quicker comprehension of the complete report when browsing it.



Subtitles identify either page segments or objects within a page as well as elements within an object. Typical subtitles are chart titles, table titles, table numbers, etc. on pages with multiple objects.


Subtitles complement the identification information given in the title. They display identifiers that differ from object to object on a page. Put identifiers that are identical for all objects of a page in the title and not in the subtitles.



UN 2.3  Unify the position of legends and labels

A standardized notation of legends and labels will improve legibility and speed up comprehension of charts. More...


UN 2.4  Unify comments

Comments detail other elements (e.g. definitions of data series) and objects such as charts and tables. Sometimes comments also refer to complete pages.


The level of comprehension increases when comments refer directly to the visual representation. Therefore, comments on an object (e.g. chart) are integrated into that object when possible. Comment elements should be linked to the content of tables, charts, etc. through comment references (see also SAY rule SA 4.4 "Name sources and link comments").



UN 2.5  Unify footnotes

Footnotes, a special type of comments, provide general explanations, explanations of abbreviations, and sources that increase the credibility of the content. They can be omitted from slides projected on the wall, but must be included in written material.


Position footnotes at the bottom of a page.




© 2015 IBCS Association. Except where otherwise noted licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 International.