I am working with this timeline as seen below. I'll try to explain it a bit:

  • Each circle represents an event.
  • There are no tick marks because it's not a "mission-critical" kind of data set.
  • We just need a rough idea of events. Also, I have omitted the text for clarity.
  • Desired aesthetic is still a professional one though

enter image description here My personal take on my own work is good for the most part. I like how the colors "jump" out of the gray background rectangles.

However, the edges of the timeline (far left, far right) seem harsh. I tried capping them off with semi-circles but that resulted in a too "playful" kind of look. It seems adding too many circular elements tends to make it look less professional -- at least to my eyes.


Is there a way to keep the rectangular shape of the rectangles without seeming too harsh?

Note: Feel free to critique other parts as well.

  • 6
    So, there are eight dots.... Wait, there are (squints) eleven dots. Why do they have three, wait (squints again) five, er, six different colors? Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 10:45
  • 3
    the 5th dot definitely doesn't jump
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 11:07
  • 1
    You may also want to ask the question on the User Experience site.
    – Raidri
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 15:59
  • 2
    @ChrisH And the sixth is no better, at least to my eyes looking at my monitor. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 17:24
  • My phone agrees with @DavidRicherby. My desktop monitor didn't. But if we're in a situation where device variability is able to make some of the spots almost disappear, I think that point makes itself.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 19:15

4 Answers 4


The purpose of a timeline is to show how the dots (or events in your case) break the line, so no need to squeeze the dots inside the line. Also adding bananas or cherries at the ends of the line and a pattern behind all this can affect the meaning and visibility of the actual break points.

I would decrease the thickness of the line and make the dots larger, also play with the colors a bit, as what you have doesn't provide enough contrast between the line and the dots. Remove that pattern behind the timeline to make it look more professional and go with a plain white background. Clean it up.

enter image description here

Make it stand out even more by turning the dots into rings like this.

enter image description here

Or, you can remove the circles completely and play with this in many ways.

enter image description here


I don't feel the colors "jump out" in any way. I think the contrast ratio is far too low. for everything other than the darkest blue. In fact,that light blue and light yellow are nearly impossible to see. The variation between the darker blues is so minute, one would need to be specifically looking for that aspect to pick up on it.

If it were my work, I'd alter colors so the contrast is much, much greater between the bar and the circles. However, without the full picture, this is all merely conjecture. Labels may make the circles work better than the image presented here.

As for rectangles not looking like rectangles....

It's all really matter of opinion.

I might cap the ends to provide definition:

enter image description here

Or you could fade them....

enter image description here

If you simply want a "feel" that the image is a tad more dynamic.... you could vary where the fields end. Allowing the actual bar to extend past its background a bit, conveying a sense of depth.

enter image description here

It's very difficult to give suggestions without the complete context. A specific solution may be readily apparent when looking at the entire design as opposed to one minute piece.


The colors used for the dots on the timeline do not contrast enough with the timeline. A tool that I have found useful in producing visualizations is the ColorBrewer Tool. Prof. Brewer has done some in-depth study of the use of contrasting colors in portraying information in a highly digestible way for, even for the color-blind.

Secondly, I think that for everyone, but especially keeping the color-blind/challenged in mind, it might be helpful if you increased the diameter of the dots to something greater than the width of the solid grey timeline bar.

  • Hello @TampaCraig and welcome to GDSE! Thank you for your contribution. You can familiarize yourself with how our community works in our help section
    – curious
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 13:49

In a diagram each element has a meaning, adding any decorative element can alter that information. Fading the ends could mean imprecise time, putting a line stop mean the opposite: start and end known and precise.

enter image description here

Knowing that these are the elements that make up the graph and trying to alter as less as possible the information, there are many graphic alternatives.

Triangle caps

It can mean a precise beginning and end but fade in time.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Square caps

Precise beginning and end but not of time but of the timeline diagram.

square cap

grey square cap

Combination of the previous two:


Brackets caps




enter image description here

Jagged caps

enter image description here

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