Up Your Game with a Tableau Style Guide

Let's begin with the very real fact that I'm in no way a marketing expert. I dabble because I'm trying to create consistency for my end users. I love going out to Tableau Server and seeing all the thumbnails have a similar look and feel. If those dashboards are exported during a subscription, downloaded in a PDF, or used in a presentation they feel official because we're using brand standards. Most companies have brand standards, which your marketing department will happily share with you.

In fact, a colleague of mine (Matt Michaelson) worked with our marketing department to define a tailored set of brand standards for use in our Tableau dashboards.

When creating our style guide, we wanted it to be easy enough to implement that anyone who builds Tableau dashboards could do it, but also so you wouldn't be spending too much time applying it. The main components of our easy style guide are: fonts, colors, and design elements. Before diving into the steps, let's check out some examples!

Playfair Data

Storytelling with Data


Do you see how each of these examples uses a consistent set of fonts, colors, and design elements? A few small decisions, used in a consistent way, can have a tremendous impact. So, are you ready to make some choices?!


To ensure your content looks consistent across different operating systems and browsers, it is important to choose web safe fonts, which any machine should be able to properly render. I found this website helpful when picking a web safe font. You'll also want to ensure the fonts you've chosen work with Tableau (a partial list can be found here). It's also helpful to have two different fonts, one that is meant to be legible and one that is meant to be dramatic.


I can't remember who shared this website with me, but I've found it so easy to choose a color palette with it! When it comes to Tableau, you may want a wide range of possible color options (for those times you need multiple colors in a color palette). This post explains how to setup a custom color palette for use in Tableau Desktop. You also need to plan for those that may be colorblind, but I'm not an expert on colorblindness (for that you should check out Bridget Cogley's blog). A quick test I used is to take a screenshot of the color palette and paste the image into Word, change the color of the image to black and white, and see if any colors are too similar. For your style guide you really just need a primary and secondary color.

Design Elements

The last component you need for a style guide are any design elements that you want to include. We have a grey vertical container at the top with our logo as an image left justified within it, but you could specify how you use buttons and icons, too. I highly recommend Flaticon for various design elements. You can even set them up as custom shapes for use in Tableau.                

How to Apply Your Style Guide

The easiest way I've found to apply a style guide is from the Format > Workbook menu. Under the All section you'll make your default font and color selections. You can also specify any customizations for worksheets, titles, and tooltips. Typically my worksheet title will be a slightly larger font than my worksheet font and dashboards titles larger still as well as being a different color. There are even default line formatting you can select (I always turn off the gridlines). Once you set your fonts and colors in the Format Workbook pane, you can add any design elements you want to your dashboard. In my case, I added a vertical container, colored the background blue, and added my dashboard title to the container.

Tip: Apply the style guide first thing. It can be tougher to retroactively apply it if you've already done a ton of formatting.

After a few uses, you'll be a pro and applying your style guide in seconds! These 3 small changes, when implemented consistently, can have a dramatic effect on your work. It looks more professional and your users will have more confidence in your work.

Bonus Tip: My default dashboard is letter landscape because it seems to fit well on most screens and can be easily printed.