How to Use Harvey Balls in PowerPoint Presentations - Next generation tools for Microsoft Office

How to Use Harvey Balls in PowerPoint Presentations

You often wonder how to present complex qualitative data without relying on a ton of text? Then, adding Harvey Balls to PowerPoint presentations is a great option! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into how you can use this powerful visual tool, frequently used by management consultants, in your own PowerPoint slide deck. First things first – what exactly are Harvey Balls?

What is a Harvey Ball?

Simply put, Harvey Balls are round ideograms used to visually represent information in a concise and intuitive manner, helping save space on your slides! Designed by IT investor Harvey L. Poppel while working at Booz Allen Hamilton (which is why they are also called Booz balls) as the head of their worldwide IT consulting practice. The goal was clear: create a visual to summarize data in a simple manner.

A collection of Harvey Balls

Typically represented by circle shapes, which are filled to a varying degree (often from 25% to 100%) reflecting the extent to which a particular item satisfies a particular criterion or to indicate the level of completion or progress.

These basic shapes make it easy to compare the completion of a criteria, item or stage and therefore a powerful communicative tool especially in qualitative information visualization. As Harvey Balls are used in many different ways, make sure to read the legend to fully understand the conclusion.

How Harvey Balls Can Be Used in Diverse Set of Applications

These simple versatile circles are used in different business areas including project status tracking, comparisons of products or features, lean manufacturing, and project management. The icons are actually so versatile that they are even used in other fields outside business practices such as Cartography and Astronomy. Even the renowned Consumer Reports has adapted its own set of custom Harvey Balls.

More importantly, they are commonly used by the Big Three management consulting firms: McKinsey, BCG and Bain in their incredible presentations, which are often imitated across industries. Down below are some visual representations of how you can use Harvey Balls in PowerPoint.

Two examples of Harvey Balls in PowerPoint using Ampler

A comparison table comparing five products with the use of Harvey Balls to indicate the level of fit

A comparison table comparing five products with the use of Harvey Balls to indicate the level of fit

The first example show a product comparison table with Harvey Balls. The products are compared on five criteria: Features, Usability, Affordability, Reliability and Performance as well as an overall score. This gives a simple and intuitive overview of how fit the product is on these criteria’s as seen in the legend.

A Gantt Chart showing a product launch with Harvey Balls to indicate state of completion of the tasks

A Gantt Chart showing a product launch with Harvey Balls to indicate state of completion of the tasks

The second example is a product launch using a Gantt chart. Here the Harvey Balls are used to indicate the status of completion of the different stages in the project. This gives a very effective overview of how far a long each activity is.

Step by Step Video: How to Create a Harvey Ball in PowerPoint

In the following video each step of how to create a Harvey Ball is provided in detail.

The steps discussed in the video on how to create Harvey Balls in PowerPoint are provided below for further detail.

Step 1 – Identify Usage

Before using Harvey Balls, it’s important to determine the type of information you are about to present to your audience. Is it about a trend, a comparison or a concept? Harvey Balls are visual tools primarily used for comparisons and not suitable for trends and concepts.

Furthermore they are useful for representing qualitative information rather than quantitative. When comparing multiple criteria, comparison tables are a good solution. However, one should be careful not to overcrowd PowerPoint slides with Harvey Balls. Remember that simplicity is what makes them useful, so using too may can cause confusion and detract from the important information you are trying to convey.

Step 2 – Create Harvey Balls shapes

Creating Harvey Balls in PowerPoint are quite straightforward!

  • Go to the Insert tab in PowerPoint
  • Click on Shapes and select the Oval shape
  • While drawing the circle hold Shift to make a symmetrical shape
  • Format the circle using the Shape Format tab

Creation of a Harvey Ball


Tip: You can insert Harvey Balls using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) in PowerPoint, navigate to the “Insert” tab, choose “Pictures,” select the SVG file of your Harvey Ball. Otherwise the Segoe UI symbol font contains various shapes that can be combined to create Harvey Balls in PowerPoint.

Step 3 – Make a partial circle

  • Go to the Insert tab again and select Partial circle
  • While drawing hold Shift to match the size of the circle you created earlier
  • Place the partial circle exactly on top of the whole circle
  • Adjust the partial circle by using the orange handles to adjust the amount filled
  • Choose a preset style or design a custom Harvey Ball by selecting individual shape fill and outline options

Creation of a partial circle


Tip: No need to create your own partial circle! Fill the circle in Ampler with some clicks.

Step 4 – Group the shapes

  • Select both shapes (the full circle and the partial circle)
  • Right-click and choose “Group” > “Group”. This allow you to move them as a whole
  • Want multiple circles? Copy and paste your grouped Harvey Ball wherever needed
  • Format the circle you just created using the Shape Format tab

Group Harvey Balls


Tip: In Excel click the empty cell in your table. Under the font, choose “Segoe UI Symbol”, and under subject find “Geometric Shapes.”  There you find Harvey Balls, there you click the insert button.

Step 5 – Customize your Harvey Balls icons

Want to create your own Harvey Balls like Consumer Reports? There are multiple different design options for alternative versions which are listed below:

  • Fill Style: Instead of simple solid fills use different pattern like diagonal lines
  • Colour Coding: Assign different colours to the balls to signify various levels of completion or different categories
  • Different shapes: Incorporate other shapes than circles like squares, triangles to represent different kind of criteria
  • Size Variation: Alter the size of the balls to indicate different significance levels
  • Overlay icons: Symbols and icons like a checkmark to indicate completion or a question mark to denote uncertainty

Below are some examples of custom made Harvey Balls: Top Row shows Harvey Balls with alternative pattern and the bottom row show Consumer Reports’ version. The red denotes greater level of satisfaction than black.

Alternative Harvey Ball design

Tip: Ampler creates customizable Harvey Balls in PowerPoint with a few clicks!!

Step 6 – Clarify the Context

The final step is to ensure the audience understands what the Harvey Ball is meant to represent. Harvey ball symbols can’t stand alone; there need to be some context provided to clarify what they are visualizing. To achieve clarity, make sure to specify the criterion being represented by making a legend. Consistency in style, size, and alignment of the Harvey Ball shapes is also crucial to maintain clarity and crispness on the slide for the audience.

Below is an example of a legend that clearly states what the amount of fill present. Taken from the Gantt chart example.

Harvey Ball legend - Showing the level of completion: not initiated, on track and finalized

Harvey Ball legend – Showing the level of completion: not initiated, on track and finalized

Pros and Cons of Using Harvey Balls in your Presentations

The main advantage of using Harvey Balls is their simplicity. They allow for quick visual comparisons on the amount of the circle that is filled, ranging from very low completion to full completion. When comparing multiple criteria, Harvey Balls can be inserted into comparison charts, providing a quick overview without overwhelming the audience with excessive information.

However, there are some disadvantages to using Harvey Balls. Notably, the symbols are not well-suited for quantitative comparisons as they lack precision. Other visual aids, such as pie charts or bar charts are more suitable for this type of data visualization. Another disadvantage is the fixed predefined levels of fill which can lead to lack of nuance of the criteria presented.

Alternative Visual Tools

As discussed above, in some instances, it’s better to use other visuals like a simple pie chart or bar chart when presenting quantitative data. Other visualization tools, such as bullet points, can also be used as an alternative to Harvey Balls when providing qualitative information. Below, we compare these four options: when to use them and what they especially useful for.

When to Choose between them

  • Harvey Balls: Very useful when comparing qualitative data attributes (e.g., quality, satisfaction) or assessing levels (e.g., A, B, C). Provides simple and easy-to-understand overview of how an item meets a criteria. Does however not show absolute values.
  • Pie Charts: Optimal for showing proportions or percentages within a whole (e.g., market share) Easily display the relative contributions of different categories. Not ideal for precise comparisons or trends over time.
  • Bar Charts: Very versatile visual tool, as it can be used for a board range of data types. Excellent for comparing quantitative data across distinct categories and provide more information density than pie charts. Great for showing trends. There are few limitations as long as the sum across groups equals the total.
  • Bullet points: Great for concise lists and/or highlighting distinct key information. Can quickly convey information. However not suitable for visualizing proportions or trends.

The following charts are made with Ampler Charts:

A pie chart showing products share of a market and a bar chart showing this over three years

A pie chart showing products share of a market and a bar chart showing this over three years

Remember, this is not an exhaustive list, only some options for different ways of presenting information and to visualize data.

Amplify Your Presentations with Ampler

Want to take your presentations to the next level? Ampler is an advanced add-on for Microsoft PowerPoint used by consultants around the world to create professional presentations. With Ampler, you gain access to a vast library so you can create charts and visualize complex data with just a few clicks. Easily convert any native chart, from Think-cell or Mekkographics to an Ampler Chart.

Tired of going through every slide to check for errors like alignment? Use Ampler’s Scan & Fix function to quickly correct mistakes. These are just some of the benefits of Ampler, but there is so much more! Watch the video below to learn how Ampler can amplify your company’s presentations and workflow.

Conclusion: A Powerful Visual for your Communication

Some final words! Harvey Balls are an effective tool for qualitative data representation, and their simplicity in the form of a filled circle makes them a strong visual tool for comparisons on your PowerPoint slides.

It’s important to not overuse them as it defeats their purpose. A clear, simple visual layout is recommended. If however, there is a need for multiple, consider creating a comparison table. Remember to always think about what kind data you are about to present as well what’s the point you want to get across. There are multiple options for data visualization – pick the most effective one.

When you’re creating a presentation, designing a report, or analysing data, Harvey Balls can be a great option to significantly enhance your communication effectiveness.

If you want more tips and tricks on how take your presentations to the next level visit our guides:

Tips, tricks, and best practices – Ampler Articles

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