When we think of dashboards, we tend to imagine a giant wall of monitors that are updated every second, but there are many situations in which a static design makes more sense. For this week’s reading, we’ll be exploring some examples, and examining why the designer made that choice.
Dashboarding to Defend Democracy
After the Nazis blitzed through Europe, they began bombing Britain in preparation for an amphibious invasion. Forced into a London bunker, Churchill turned to the most powerful weapon at his disposal: Bar charts
Looking at these reports offers a fascinating insight into his decision making process, because each of these must have taken his staff hours to produce. You can see that, even as the ceiling shook from explosions overhead, he was carefully tracking everything from Allied shipping tonnage to the number of Britons who would be old enough to become soldiers in the next year. The closest graph on the top picture is particularly fascinating. U-boats were trying to cut off Britain’s ability to receive supplies from the US, and eliminating them was critical to enabling the fight to go on. Success in this critical effort came down to some pretty simple arithmetic, subtracting out the U-boats which had been confirmed sunk from the production estimates. Even through the chaos around him, Churchill knew that he needed to keep his eye on these critical numbers and slowly but surely push them in the right direction.
One of the most intensely watched government data feeds is a monthly report that is, in many ways, less sophisticated than the WW2 era graphs above. Because collecting these numbers is so time consuming, having a live display would be both unnecessary and misleading. In some ways, the lack of live updates makes it more interesting, because the release date is eagerly anticipated, and even “the number hasn’t really moved” is considered a newsworthy result.
Rent or Buy
While interactive in the sense that users can provide input, this calculator is not designed to be watched like a hawk. You could imagine checking in every year as you decide whether to renew your lease, and printing the results to refer to in case you find a better-than-expected purchasing opportunity. The input numbers aren’t going to move much minute-to-minute (or even month-to-month), making this another situation where a static report with occasional updates is most appropriate.