How To Create a Reference Box in Tableau

by Henry Mak

You might've heard of a reference line or a reference band... but have you heard of a reference box???

Me neither, about 1 hour ago prior to writing this blog post.

Here's what a reference box looks like. In this example, the reference box has highlighted the area of the chart which is within 1 standard deviation of both Sales and Profit.

1. Firstly, create a distribution band with a colour of your choice (via the analytics pane). I have chosen grey and set the limits to -1 Standard Deviation to +1 Standard Deviation. I have created the distribution band on Profit.

2. Create another distribution band, this time on Sales. Change the Value so that it's only -1 Standard Deviation (instead of the default -1, 1). Next tick Fill Below, Symmetric and select white for the Fill.

3. Similarly, create a distribution band for +1 Standard Deviation in Sales. This time tick Fill Above instead of Fill Below.

4. Do some formatting and ta da!

Right now the reference box is static on -1 and +1 Standard Deviation. I don't know if there is a way to make this dynamic, perhaps with parameters. Maybe this will be a blog post for the future??

For those who'd like a video walkthrough on how to make a reference box, check out this tutorial by Jonathan Allenby:

Tableau Public