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Harvey Balls

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Title: Harvey Balls  
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Harvey Balls

Harvey Balls are round ideograms used for visual communication of qualitative information. They are commonly used in comparison tables to indicate the degree to which a particular item meets a particular criterion.

For example, in a comparison of products, information such as price or weight can be conveyed numerically, and information such as the existence or lack of a feature can be conveyed with a check mark; however, information such as "quality" or "safety" or "taste" is often difficult to summarize in a manner allowing easy comparison – thus, Harvey Balls are used.

In addition to their use in qualitative comparison, Harvey Balls are also commonly used in Project Management for project tracking; in Lean Manufacturing for VSM and Continuous Improvement tracking; and in BPM software for visualisation.[1]

Harvey Poppel is generally credited with inventing Harvey Balls in the 1970s while working at Booz Allen Hamilton as a consultant.[2][3]

Harvey Balls have nothing to do with Harvey Ball, the inventor of the smiley face.

Implementations and support


The SVG Version of Harvey Balls above also includes the original Booz Allen Hamilton style balls on the top row and the Consumer Reports style on the bottom row. The middle rows contain alternative versions.

The use of SVG to render Harvey Balls allows them to be easily used in web browsers and applications that support the XML vector graphics format. The benefit is that no special font is required and the Harvey Balls can be displayed using an open format. The main drawback is that SVG is not universally supported.

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel 2007 introduced the functionality to render Harvey Balls through the Conditional Formatting function.

Microsoft Word and PowerPoint

While using Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 there are two ways to insert Harvey Balls in text.

  1. On the Insert Tab - Click Symbol - On the dialogue box select font as MS Gothic and Subset as Geometric Shapes and insert the relevant Symbol.
  2. Type the Unicode of the character you plan to insert (Ex. U + 25D3), Press 'Alt + X'. For a list of Unicodes, refer here.

Custom Font

Custom fonts have been developed such that the numbers 0-9 map to a particular Harvey Ball. Incorporating the Harvey Ball into a document then becomes a matter of selecting the number which corresponds to the desired Harvey Ball and setting the font to Harvey Ball. The Harvey Balls can then be manipulated like any other font (e.g., color, size, underline) and may be easier to use than other implementations. The main drawback of this approach is that the font either needs to be embedded in the document or all the viewers of the document must have the font installed.


The use of Unicode to render Harvey Balls depends on whether a font with these characters is installed; the Unicode Harvey Balls may be difficult to work with in software that does not render these characters uniformly.

The Unicode set of related symbols includes:
Symbol Unicode Codepoint (Hex) Name
U+25CB Large Circle
U+25CF Black Circle
U+25D0 Circle with left half black
U+25D1 Circle with right half black
U+25D2 Circle with lower half black
U+25D3 Circle with upper half black
U+25D4 Circle with upper right quadrant black
U+25D5 Circle with all but upper left quadrant black

Modifications & other uses

Consumer Reports is well known for using a modified type of Harvey Ball in product ratings and has even incorporated one into their logo.[4]

IBM uses a modified version in their Lotus Notes product as recipient icons to show whether the recipient of a piece of mail is the sole recipient, a copied recipient, etc.[5]

Some of the symbols used for Harvey Balls are also used in other fields to represent other types of information:[6]
Symbol Uses
Astronomy: (Full Moon)
Astronomy: (New Moon)
Astronomy: (First Quarter Moon)
Astronomy: (Last Quarter Moon), Electronics: (On/Off Switch, Television Contrast)
Cartography: (Spring or Well)
Meteorology: (Partly overcast)
Meteorology: (Almost clear sky or Somewhat overcast)
Meteorology: (Broken Clouds)[7]

See also


  1. ^ - Business Performance Measurement - At the Crossroads of Strategy, Decision-Making, Learning and Information Visualization
  2. ^ Digital Roam - The Back of the Napkin Blog
  3. ^ Palm Beach Daily News
  4. ^ Consumer Reports
  5. ^ IBM DeveloperWorks Blog
  6. ^ - Online Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms
  7. ^ Okta - Weather Icons

External links

  • Harvey Balls Deluxe (TrueType Font) - A free unlimited-use Harvey Balls font and key map
  • - A free limited-use version of the Harvey Balls Font, with instructions and examples
  • - A free unlimited-use version of Harvey Balls Font
  • Harvey Balls PowerPoint Template - Free PPT template with Harvey Ball shapes
  • Editable Harvey Balls Template for PowerPoint - Editable Harvey Balls Template for PowerPoint
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