Using conditional formatting in Power BI is a strong way to improve your data visualizations. This article discusses the best practices about using icons and conditional formatting in your Power BI dashboards. Want to learn more about Power BI? Read the following articles:

Power BI icons

In Power BI, you are building reports based on data that has been visualized. Therefore, a large portion of your focus is on the appearance of the visualizations and icons that represent the data.

Now if you want the icons in your visuals to effectively represent and transmit data to other users through their appearance, you must first ensure that they are set to On.

There are two possible ways to adjust the use of Power BI icons in your matrix or table (set them to On/Off):

1. Go to the Format pane, under Conditional formatting, and select the field you want the conditional format to be applied to. Then, you turn the Icon option to On (or Off if you want to disable the icons).

GIF: Change Power BI icon setting to On/Off from Conditional Formatting

2. Go to the Format pane, right-click a value field, select Conditional formatting in the menu, and then choose Icons.

GIF: change Power BI icon settings from Format pane

To deselect the use of icons in this menu, click on the option Remove conditional formatting and then choose Icons.

Default settings for icons

The default settings for Power BI icons consist of:

  • Format by rules
  • Based on the value in the selected measure
  • Three icons: red, yellow, and green, each represent a percentage range of the selected measures.

The following image shows the default settings with a 33% range of the selected measures.

Power BI default icon setting with 33% range selected

Setting Conditional formatting

The actions above show you how to activate icons in your matrix or tables, but did you know that there are several other conditional formatting options to choose from to make icons more appealing?

Below is a list of other conditional formatting options you can use to adjust your icons.

  • Format by Rules is the basic setting of the conditional formatting for icons. Selecting this setting allows you to create a set of rules to show an icon.
  • Format by Field value uses a field containing a (custom) icon file as a source for the icon. Under the section 'Based on field,' select the field to base the formatting on.
  • Icon layout: There are three options for the layout of the icon: Left of the data, Right of the data, and Icon only.
  • Icon alignment: Icons can be aligned at the Top, Middle, or Bottom of the cell.
  • Icon style:  There are several standard styles for visualization of the data with an icon from the Selection pane Style. The selected style will automatically add one rule if you pick an option with four icons.
  • Reverse icon order: This option reverses the order of your icons to the rule settings. For example, the default settings shows the bottom 33% will be a green circle, the middle 33% remains the yellow triangle, and the top 33% will be a red diamond.
  • New rule: Selecting the New rule option adds a rule to the existing rule lines. You can delete a rule by selecting the cross at the right of the rule line.

Creating rules and selecting icons

Under Rules, you can code your own rules (1) and select icons to comply (2).

Power BI icon code rules and comply options
  1. The coding of the rules can be a bit confusing. You can work with absolute numbers and with percentages. You can also use maximum and minimum referring to the values that there are on the data.
  2. It’s important that you practice a little with the setting of the rule. To check your outcome, you can use the icon type left or right of the data.

Make sure to practice with the settings of the rule. To check your outcome, you can use the icon type left or right of the data.

Make your own Power BI icon

As visuals and icons represent the information found in your data, it’s important you understand how and when to apply them. So, try to add and customize an icon in your Power BI report by using the different Conditional Formatting options.

Power BI is a powerful program that allows you to visualize your data. Would you like to further improve your skills?

Start one of the three, 20+ Challenge Power BI tracks by signing up at 5miles for a free two-week trial now and expand on what you have learned here.