Following my question here, I am wondering what are some innovative ways of making different aspects of a complex flowchart standout.

By aspects, I mean the different processes (as a group) e.g. for an employment flowchart, some processes could be need analysis, advertising, interview, background check, hiring etc.

For each of these processes, there are several steps involved, so they would be illustrated as a group in the flowchart.

The two ways that I currently know are:

  • Using colours
  • Using different text box borders
  • Using different shapes
  • 2
    Hi Javeer! Do yuo have any samples? I feel this question would get much more attention if it had some images. So far you got 3 close votes, which means your question is too broad. – Yisela Feb 4 '15 at 21:36

Just a few ideas from my own experience:

  • Filled boxes with white text, vs outline boxes with dark text;
  • Where you wish to emphasise some boxes over others, try reducing the colour saturation of the chart as a whole to zero, and increase the overall brightness, so that it appears as monochrome faded grey. Then use this as a background, and superimpose unfaded, fully coloured boxes over the top for those items you wish to emphasise;
  • A variation on the above, would be to use (manual) colour 'sub-palettes', so that different groups of boxes are picked out at different levels of colour saturation. This has been used to great effect in Air Traffic Control, with a background in shades of grey, a main layer of boxes in pastel shades, leaving the ability to pick out special cases with bright coloured boxes;
  • Smallish variations in the size of both a box and the text within it, may help;
  • Try a pale filled shape that covers an area surrounding all of the boxes you wish to emphasise, but stacked -behind- these boxes so it doesn't obscure them, but is still visible around their edges. This effect will work better if this background shape has broad rounded corners that also contrast with pointed corners on the boxes overlaying it;
  • Try small coloured insets in your boxes, appearing as a thickened (but colour keyed) line on one side of each box. You can then use the choice of which line to 'thicken' to indicate which group the box belongs to;
  • If you have them or can buy them, you might also try some filters such as those by Alien Skin, but if you do so, take care not to overdo it, as different styles may clash. Best to go for one of the simpler styles, and contrast this with unstyled boxes.

As a more general point, you might try choosing styles, colours and shapes that have some contextual meaning. This will not completely obviate the need to provide a key swatch, but it may help to make reading your charts more intuitive or more memorable.



Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.