How To: Big Data Visualization with Microsoft Power BI

February 6, 2019
February 3, 2020

Visualizing your data is a powerful way to discover new insights and relationships. With data visualization, you can digest huge amounts of data to discover hidden links and opportunities, especially those that don’t stand out in lists and spreadsheets.

The simplest visuals are usually the clearest and most useful, though simplicity can be a difficult task for even the most seasoned visual designers. It’s much easier to use a program to create simple and clear visuals. Microsoft Power BI offers a variety of visual options with flexibility to customize.

Below are some basics on how it works.

Getting Started

There are two ways to get started with a new visualization in Power BI:

  1. Drag the names of the fields you want from the Fields pane onto the canvas. They’ll show up at first as a table of data. You can then click on the data and then click into the Visualizations pane to customize.

  1. Go to the Visualizations pane and click on the type of visual you want. It’ll show up as a blank placeholder until you add your data by dragging the applicable fields over to the bottom of the Visualization pane. The visual will update in real time as you add data.

To resize a graph, just click on it and drag the handles.

To move it around on the canvas, click anywhere on the visual, hold and drag.

To change one type of graph to another, click on it, then select a new one from the Visualization pane.

To change the appearance of your graph, like colors or font style, click on the paint brush icon in the Visualizations pane.

Data Visualization Blog

Combination Chart

Combination charts are ideal for showing data sets with varying scales. For example, number of units sold and the dollar amount earned from those sales.

You can customize what kind of charts are combined depending on your needs, and then add more detail by splitting the data into categories and using color to differentiate, etc. Remember: clarity and simplicity is key. Two simple charts may work better than one complicated chart. We recommend limiting the use of combination charts to data sets with varying scales.


You can choose between two types of map visualizations in Power BI: bubble maps and shape maps. Use the Map option in the Visualization pane for bubble maps, and the Filled Map option for shape maps.

Type your Location to get started--you can enter various types of location data ranging from the name of a city to exact coordinates. However, if Power BI needs more location data you’ll see a warning icon in the top left of the visual. You can usually solve this by inputting more specific location data or changing the name of the column to something more descriptive. Always use 3-letter abbreviations for countries or regions. Add a Size field to control the size of the bubbles for a bubble map or the level of fill for a shape map. It’s as simple as that!

Power BI Slicers in 3 Steps

With complex information sets, it’s a good idea to provide slicers for the viewing audience. This way they can segment the data for a closer look at a particular location or time frame, for example. You can select the Slicer tool from the Visualizations pane.

  1. Drag and drop the field you want to slice on top of the slicer placeholder.
  2. Your visual will change into a list of filters.
  3. Select filters to segment those elements.

You can control whether users can slice by multiple elements, just one, or all at once. The slicer defaults to vertical but you can convert it to horizontal.


Power BI knows that sometimes a simple table is all you need. Drag and drop a category or text field onto the canvas to create a default table. It will be sorted alphabetically, and you can edit the order of the Values fields by editing their order in the Visualizations pane.

Other Charts and Visual Customization

Power BI also offers scatter plots, waterfall and funnels, and more, with Microsoft continually updating and adding new options and customization.

You can add standard visual elements like text boxes, shapes and images using the Home tab ribbon at the top of the screen. Use these elements to help viewers digest your visuals faster and easier, adding clarity, not clutter.

The Page View menu on the Home tab lets you change scale and sizing of your page layout.

You can duplicate visuals and layouts from other reports by right-clicking on the tab of the page you want to copy and clicking on Duplicate Page.

Want to learn more?

These are the basics of Power BI data visualization, and will get you well on your way to creating and sharing data in a richer way with your teams. As a certified Power BI partner, Onebridge can answer any questions you have about Power BI, data visualization or anything else related to data analytics. Get in touch with us today, we’re here to help! Be sure to bookmark us and stay tuned for more data visualization blogs.

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