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UN 5.1  UNIFY Highlighting Indicators

The message to be conveyed should be highlighted on the respective page by appropriate visual means. Highlighting elements enhance the meaning and importance of other elements. Use highlighting elements for assisting purposes, for visualizing differences and trends, for underlining values, for indicating a reference, or for linking comments.


Assisting lines and areas

Use Assisting lines for different highlighting purposes, e.g. for showing differences, for separating, arranging, or grouping data in charts or tables, or for coordinating visualization elements of different charts.


Use assisting areas for different highlighting purposes, e.g. for highlighting words in a longer text, or for highlighting certain parts of charts or tables.


Difference markers

Highlight differences in charts by using two parallel assisting lines to project the respective lengths of two columns or bars to a difference marker highlighting the distance between the two assisting lines.


Position difference markers in a way that they can clearly highlight the respective difference.


Difference markers representing a positive impact on business issues (e.g. profit) are colored green; difference markers representing a negative impact on business issues (e.g. loss) are colored red. Difference markers representing neutral impacts on business issues are colored gray.


Trend arrows

Arrows can highlight trends in charts and (seldom) tables, too.


Position trend arrows in a way that they can clearly highlight the respective trend direction. In general, the arrowhead is pointing in time direction.


Trend arrows representing a positive trend are colored green; trend arrows representing a negative impact on business issues (e.g. loss) are colored red. Trend arrows representing neutral impacts on business issues are colored gray.


Highlighting ellipses

Use highlighting ellipses to highlight single values. Good reasons for highlighting single values are e.g.

  • Highlighting messages: If the message refers to a specific value in a chart, table or graph, highlight this value with a blue ellipse.
  • Highlighting additional values: Sometimes it is helpful to add additional values (e.g. percent value) in charts or tables. In this case, use a black ellipse.


Reference arrowheads

Use reference arrowheads for highlighting a reference standard. Examples of reference standards are:

  • Indices: Either one value (e.g. the value of the year 2010) is set to 100%, or the total is set to 100% (see sections about time series analyses and structure analyses).
  • Benchmarks: Popular benchmarks are market averages, competitors, or best practices.

Positon the arrowhead close to the point representing the index or the benchmark. Write the label for the index (e.g. “100%” or “100”) or for the benchmark (e.g. “Market avg.”) next to the arrowhead. The arrowhead points in the direction of an imaginary index or benchmark line. If helpful, add an assisting line.


Comment references

Use comment references in pairs to link comments to the corresponding values or positions in a chart or a table (see also SAY rule SA 4.4 "Name sources and link comments").



Variance highlighting indicators

Highlight variances in tables by using visualization elements representing the magnitude of the variance, such as bars and pins (see also EXPRESS rule EX 2.5 "Replace traffic lights"). “Traffic lights” might be useful for highlighting single variances related to the message or to comments in tables without chart elements, though. Another means for highlighting single variances are “warning dots” positioned next to the value or text element needing attention.


Indicators highlighting variances representing a positive impact on business issues are colored light green, those representing a negative impact light red. If no color is available, replace red with dark gray, green with light gray. For readers with color deficiency, replace green with blue-green.


Use only few variance highlighting indicators per page.



Other highlighting

Add visualization elements for not-valid values, limits, or other relevant phenomena. Standardize and document these "signals" so that they become an effective means of communication.



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