The benefits of data visuals in brief:
- They connect us to our audience
- They bring data to life
- They make it easy for you
- They are straight to the point
- They are plenty
Great data visuals are powerful tools – they deliver complex information in highly accessible and digestible packages, and they make room for diverse audiences to engage with their content. They not only offer us a cool mental picture of how our data flows and is distributed, but also magnify the gaps that we so often search for in scientific research. If you’re struggling to get your point across to the folks who need to hear it, a great data visual might be just the thing you need. Our data visualization consultant shares 5 things she loves about great data visuals:
1. They connect us to our audience
Great data visuals convey the right information to both primary and secondary target audiences, but they also share information in ways that connect to what people care about, be that their origins, age group, or opportunities. This was highlighted throughout the recent pandemic when innovative and interactive visuals were crucial to disease surveillance and public health action.
Data visuals that connect your message to what your target audience cares about can engage the right stakeholders and influence their decisions.
2. They bring the data to life
With recent technological advances and major shifts towards the metaverse, the bounds of data visualization possibilities are expanding past our imagination and into machine-learning territory. Us data enthusiasts are excited for what’s coming! As more and more advanced data visualization tools are created and made accessible to all, effective communication of evidence is increasingly possible at all levels of knowledge and expertise.
Great data visualization techniques show real-time data dynamics; they can display fluid transitions to reflect live changes in the data, or present multiple aspects of the data in additional dimensions, all while remaining accessible and digestible. Visuals that give audiences a real sense for the data in terms of its shape and/or dynamics are the best choice to display complex relationships. They can also help identify gaps or shifts in certain correlations that may highlight new concepts or correct established ones.
3. They make it easy for you
Great data visualization allows you to communicate key aspects of the information detailed in written text while also providing all the additional pieces of information you (and often peer reviewers) might need to interpret the results.
If you’re spinning your wheels trying to digest your results table or graph, chances are it is not very accessible for others either. Try throwing in some color gradients instead of numbers to highlight spectrums and scales, and break up your visual into smaller pieces.
Note: Due diligence requires ensuring that the data visuals you are creating have no red flags. These include distorted or disproportionate axis scales and inconsistent intervals.
4. They are straight to the point
Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.—Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Great data visuals don’t feel confusing; they focus on displaying one defined aspect or intersection of the data and leave the reader confident that they’ve gathered all there was to learn. When in doubt, opt for the simplest way to present data. Your first step should be to define what you want to do with your data. For instance, you could choose to:
- Describe its general distribution
- Break a characteristic down into smaller parts (proportions, categories, locations, etc.)
- Show the direction or attributes of a relationship
- Predict future trends
Once decided, keep this in mind as it should be the main aspect you want your visual to reflect. If you find yourself needing to show more aspects of your data to paint a full picture, consider creating additional visuals and presenting them together in a grid.
5. They are plenty
Data visuals are creative ways of driving concepts. Just like our imagination, there is almost no limit to the variety of data visuals available. That’s why there is always a great visual fit for your data– it’s just a question of how you want to use it.
Whether you want to describe qualitative, quantitative, or spatial data; summarize information; or visualize concepts, strategies, compound information, or metaphors; there is a data visual for every occasion. Check out Visual Literacy’s Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for some inspiration.
Communicating your data in an easily digestible way is an essential part of the research process. Without it, all of your hard work could go to waste! Well-considered data visuals can connect you to the people that matter, whether that be engaging stakeholders or influencing decision-makers. There’s a wealth of data visualization methods out there, so there’s bound to be the perfect data visual for your work.
Want to work with a data visualization consultant?
Ready to hear how data visualization can revolutionize your work? Get in touch with Katiana, own amazing data visualization consultant!