Present Projects clearly using consistent Symbology

Project Communication is clearer if consistent symbology is used for your project presentations. You will spend less time explaining the meaning of the symbols on your schedule and will have more time available to clarify your project's progress.

While there is a wide variety of project management symbology to choose from, and it's unlikely that all companies and government agencies will ever agree to a standard set of symbology, project managers should make an attempt to come up with a standard set of symbology to use throughout their organization for the duration of their project.  In a big company, it is a good idea to agree on standard company-wide project symbology so that executives who attend many project status presentations do not have to be briefed on the significance of the symbology before each presentation.  If a circled red arrow means "critical milestone" for project A, it should not mean "completed" for project B.


This paper shows several examples and offers simple guidelines which can be applied to improve project communication throughout your organization.  This paper expands this topic, which was previously covered in KIDASA Software's e-book "Successfully Presenting Your Projects"
Here are some simple guidelines:
  • Use simple, intuitive symbol and bar choices
  • Be consistent in applying the symbology
  • Use color to distinguish between event types
  • Clearly define the meaning of each symbol in a legend
Example 1

Scenario: Customer Presentation

Strategy: Keep it Simple

A legend is used to explain that the aqua star is a milestone, the black bar is a Summary Task and the red bar is a normal task.


Example 2  

Scenario: Multiple Projects presented on one page.

  • Show as much as possible in a condensed form.
  • Use well known acronyms to conserve space.
  • Keep the chart clutter-free for ease of presentation.  Verbally present details.

In this case the decision was made not to use a legend so that more room could be offered for the symbols and text.  In this case it is important that the audience be familiar with the acronyms.

Example 3
Scenario: Your management or your customer wants to see current project status compared to the original project plan.
  • Easily show at-a-glance how each task is doing compared to the original plan.  Compare the current plan bar to the baseline bar.
  • Also easily show the percent complete based on the amount of shading.
  • Completed milestones are filled.

Baseline vs Actual example 

Example 4
This example illustrates many of the possible status variations in which you might find your tasks.  Using simple symbology it is possible to illustrate a large number of schedule possibilities:
Current Plan  

Symbology toolbox
Here is an example of symbology which might give you ideas for setting up your own standard symbology:

Also See:

Successfully Presenting Your Projects - Click-Through    Download

Successfully Presenting Earned Value - Download