In a post some time ago on the Tufte forum, ET criticises the information sparseness of typical PM gantt charts, and their derivatives. I'd agree with him, but wonder what to do as an alternative. I've played with a few alternatives. I like the medical chart work; something like this could be effective; but I'm not sure how. Projects can be too complex. I think of a $200m retail complex with cinemas, parking, public facilities...let's say 1,500 high level tasks.
This topic has been explored by some others. One ending up with a vertical gantt chart. I don't see how this is an improvement, when people intuitively read a gantt chart left to right. A variation on this seeks to use the thickness of the gantt bars to carry information.
Based on this idea, I thought to add information numerically (thus, not quite a graphic development).
The baseline (or Original Target) is the line with diamond ends, the current forecast/actual (CF/A) is the hollow bar, and progress (PAD -- production at date) is indicated by the coloured solid bar. This is an earned value progress: the schedule performance index. If less than 1 (under-performing) the bar is amber, and lags the report date, representing as shown a SPI of 0.9: 90% of the distance between the start line and the report line.
If greater than 1, as on the lower bar (SPI of 1.2), and the activity is 'over' performing, the bar is green. The numbers surrounding are self evident on inspection.
A development of this is to strip the numbers off the bars, as below.
Gauging progress is always problematic, unless the activity is easily measured: laying bricks or pouring concrete. Much harder for intangible activities, like design. Here I break the activity in easily assessed sub-activities, and measure those on a 0-100 basis. For design this might break into: requirements confirmed, preliminary options completed, preliminary options presented, preferred option identified (as a milestone) and so on. Easier to estimate this as well; and even easier if there is relevant 'reference class' historic data (and more at the Transportist).
The only drawback with my concept is that one must be using EVM to track production. But, that's a good thing.