Maximizing the Data-Ink Ratio in Dashboards and Slide Decks

Dec 11, 2017 · 4 min read

“Above all else, show the data.”

-Edward Tufte, 1983

Once referred to by the New York Times as the “Leonardo da Vinci of data,” the work of data visualization expert Edward Tufte has long been an inspiration to Plotly.

One of Tufte’s key principals is that good graphics present their message as simply as possible. To do this, he defined the “data-ink ratio” to turn this ‘so called’ simplicity into more practical ideas.

Definition 1:

Data-ink: the non-erasable core of a graphic.

Defintion 2:

Data-ink ratio =

1. data-ink divided by the total ink used to print the graphic.

2. the proportion of a graphic’s ink devoted to the non-redundant display of data information.

3. One minus the proportion of a graphic that can be erased without loss of data information.

Because the non-erasable portion of a graph is subjective, Tufte follows up his principal of data-ink with the Five Laws of Data-Ink:

  1. Above all else show the data.
  2. Maximize the data-ink ratio.
  3. Erase non-data ink.
  4. Erase redundant data-ink.
  5. Revise and edit.

We’ve already demonstrated in a previous post how to apply these techniques to graphs in Plotly, but we’ve yet to demonstrate it using dashboards and slide decks. Until now.

In this post, find 3 dashboard and 3 slide deck templates (that you can use!) that follow Tufte’s maxims.

1. Simple Slide Deck

Minimalist by design, our Simple Slide Deck template is optimized to clearly present interactive charts, tables, and data. We’ve eliminated all non-data ink.

If you’d like to use the slide deck above and make it your own, you can download it as a .json file here. Then, if you haven’t already, download Spectacle Editor and open it.

If you need more guidance, check out our previous post on using Spectacle Editor.

2. Simple Report

“Clutter and confusion are not attributes of data — they are shortcomings of design.”

-Edward Tufte

Edit the dashboard and save your own version here.

3. Vibrant Slide Deck

“There is no such thing as information overload. There is only bad design.”

-Edward Tufte

4. Vibrant Report

“Never underestimate your audience. It’s the most common mistake made by presenters. It is not about you anymore. It’s about your audience’s relationship with your content.”

-Edward Tufte

5. Minimalist Slide Deck

“Zero out your interface.”

-Edward Tufte

6. Minimalist Report

“There are two goals when presenting data: convey your story and establish credibility.”

-Edward Tufte

By way of Plotly’s Slide Deck and Dashboard & Reporting features, you can present your data in both an enriching and aesthetically pleasing manner. Long gone are the days of worrying about whether your flash drive is going to work or if the computer is Windows or Mac — Plotly, and your graphs, slide decks, and dashboards, all exist in the cloud.

And if folks want a copy of your work afterword? Easy. Send online slide decks with interactive charts to your team, stakeholders, or customers.

Plotly gives you the tools and examples to make beautiful dashboards and reports, even if you’re not trained in design. If you’re still not convinced, we’d love to chat.


Plotly is a data visualization company that makes it easy to build, test, and deploy beautiful interactive web apps, charts and graphs—in any programming language.


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The easiest way to chart and share data online.



Plotly is a data visualization company that makes it easy to build, test, and deploy beautiful interactive web apps, charts and graphs—in any programming language.

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