ArcGIS for Power BI

Layer styling in ArcGIS for Power BI

Your brain on symbology

Did you know that 30-50% of your brain is dedicated to processing visual information? In fact, the evolution of written language all began with pictures and icons, or symbology. Eventually, as humans needed to express more and more complex ideas, this symbology developed into formal written text.

However, when we want to communicate ideas with numbers, the reverse remains true. Communicating data demands that we tap into the part of our brain that can subconsciously (and quickly) process visual information, rather than overloading our eyes with a lot of text and numbers, even when using charts or maps.

Luckily, ArcGIS for Power BI is designed to help you do precisely that.

ArcGIS for Power BI provides many layer styles that help you communicate information quickly through customizable visual variables, such as size, shape, color, texture, and more! When you style your map layers, you take your reporting up a few notches, from simply presenting where your data is, to providing an enriched understanding of what it all means and, ultimately, what actions to take.

Let’s get styling!

Start modifying the Symbology of a data layer by clicking on the options in the Layers pane next to a layer that you want to style.

Modify the Symbology of a data layer by clicking on the options in the Layers pane

In the Symbology menu, choose a style and start customizing!

ArcGIS for Power BI uses smart mapping to suggest some Symbol style options based on your data. The options shown in the below image might be different an those on your map.

Smart mapping suggests Symbol styles options based on your data

Heat Maps

Here’s an example of custom symbology. Maybe you want a report consumer to easily understand where the highest and lowest concentration of features are located. A heat map is a good way to visualize the hot and cold spots on your map. You can manually adjust the color ramps and the area of influence to best represent your data.

Heat map symbol style

Counts and Amounts (size)

Sometimes you might want to show your data proportionally by size. To activate this option, drag a numeric or ranking value into the Size field well. In the example below, you can see locations styled by their rating. Locations rated 5 stars are styled with larger diamonds, while locations rated 1 star are styled with smaller diamonds.

Counts and Amounts (size)

Back under the Counts and Amounts (size) Symbol style in the Symbology menu, the menu contains a variety of options for you to customize details like class breaks, classification methods, number of classes, and the size range. Oh, and don’t forget to open the collapsed Symbology section at the top of the menu for more experimentation with colors and shapes.

Counts and Amounts (color)

Maybe changing object size isn’t your thing. That’s OK! Perhaps you want a more colorful experience, where you can show an order to your data by modifying your map colors from more to less saturated.

To experiment with graduated color saturation, drag a numeric value into the Color field well. Notice that you are presented with the same Symbol styles as in the example above, but with an additional option, Counts and Amounts (color). Select this option and play with the color settings. Try selecting a sequential color scheme designed to highlight your ordered data and show ranges, highs, lows, etc.

Counts and Amounts (color) symbol style

Color & Size

What if there was a way to combine both size and color visual variables? Try filling both the Size and Color field wells with numeric data. This adds a Symbol style called Color & Size that lets you customize two visual variables at once! Nested inside this menu are options to modify both the Counts and Amounts (color) and the Counts and Amounts (size) discussed previously.

Color & Size symbol style

Type & Size

You can’t always control the type of data you use. Maybe you work with both numeric and categorical data. We got you covered! If you fill the Size field well with a numeric data value and the Color field well with a categorical data value, you will see a Symbol style called Type & Size.

Choosing this option in the Symbology menu also gives you access to style the Counts and Amounts (color) and the Counts and Amounts (size) used to represent your data.

Type & Size symbol style

Types (Unique symbols)

If your business data contains categorical fields, here is how you can use unique symbols to show differences in feature categories! Once you drag that categorical value into the Colors field well, an option appears in the Symbol styles menu, Types (Unique symbols). From this option, you can modify the symbol shape, color, size, and select which values are shown on the map.

Types (Unique symbols) symbol style

Location Single

Last but certainly not least, there is no reason for these fancy styles always steal the show. You can give different colors and shapes a try using our basic (but trusty!) Location Single Symbol style.

And for extra credit, you could even change up your Basemap to add some visually pleasing geographic context to your map.

Location Single symbol map with Outdoor Recreation symbology
Location Single symbol map with Outdoor Recreation symbology
Location Single symbol map with diamond shape symbology, customized fill and outline color, and Mid-Century Basemap
Location Single symbol map with diamond shape symbology, customized fill and outline color, and Mid-Century Basemap
Location Single symbol map with firefly symbology and Firefly Imagery Hybrid Basemap
Location Single symbol map with firefly symbology and Firefly Imagery Hybrid Basemap

Start styling your data today!

The ArcGIS for Power BI visual is a great addition to your Power BI reports. We guarantee it will increase the effectiveness of your data communication and reporting.

If you are looking for more information about getting started in ArcGIS for Power BI, you can find our documentation here. For even more detailed information about layer styling, see Change the symbol style in the ArcGIS for Power BI user guide.

We are always looking to improve the options and experience for you inside ArcGIS for Power BI. We would love to hear from you about ways you use map visualizations in your reports. Let us know what you are doing in our Esri community page here.

About the author

I am a physical oceanographer and geographer turned product engineer. I work on the ArcGIS for Power BI team at Esri, where I help bring location to the world of business intelligence. When I am not doing work things, I can be found teaching yoga, hiking around my home of Hawaii, or working on scent detection programs with my German Shorthaired Pointer named River.

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