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4 pillars of visualization & communication by Noah Iliinsky

A version of my standard "how to do visualization" talk from summer 2016. This version points out that the same process works for most modes of communication as well.

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4 pillars of visualization & communication by Noah Iliinsky

  1. 1. Four Pillars of Effective Visualization Communication Design Noah Iliinsky @noahi
  2. 2. Why Visualization?
  3. 3. Why Visualization?
  4. 4. Visualization makes data accessible.
  5. 5. We’re extremely good at detecting patterns and pattern violations: • trends • gaps • outliers Your brain is a pattern-detecting machine.
  6. 6. Why Stories?
  7. 7. Stories make data relevant. Free material from
  8. 8. The Four Pillars
  9. 9. The Four Pillars of Visualization This is the design process! 1. purpose – why this visualization 2. content – what to visualize 3. structure – how to visualize it 4. formatting – appeal and focus
  10. 10. Start here… Not here. Purpose
  11. 11. Defining your purpose • Why am I creating this visualization? • Who is it for? • What do they need to understand? • What actions do I need to enable? • How will it be consumed? • What is the most important take-away message?
  12. 12. Your purpose should be specific Show our data Show our revenue and customer base improvements over the last three years to potential investors *yawn*
  13. 13. Data Information Answers Actions!
  14. 14. Success requires providing answers Revenues The state of Washington shows the most improved revenues by percentage of all states from 2012-2015
  15. 15. •What data matters? •What relationships matter? •Informed by purpose! •What’s excluded is as important as what’s included. Content
  16. 16. Content: less is more, guided by purpose
  17. 17. Content selection focuses attention
  18. 18. Less content simplifies learning
  19. 19. • Comparison: rank airports by the number of weather-delayed departures • Change: show rates of malaria, over the last 10 years for these countries • Composition: show relative contribution to revenue by product line • Correlation: show how free school lunches affect graduation rates • Geography: show population density per country Example purposes
  20. 20. Different structures reveal different data, serve different purposes
  21. 21. Structure: bars support comparison • Value vs. category (count, region) • Value vs. multiple categories (count, region, age)
  22. 22. Structure: lines imply time, continuity • Line graphs are the standard for change over time • Too many lines look like spaghetti
  23. 23. Structure: pies represent composition • Few relevant slices • Not much precision required • Slices ordered by size
  24. 24. Structure: Scatter plots show correlation. Free material from • Compares relationship of data on major axes • Room for 3-5 more encodings • Don’t get too crazy…
  25. 25. Avoid these graphs dustryReport2013.pdf • Radar graphs • Non-100% pies • Circular graphs • 3D anything These distort data
  26. 26. Formatting adds appeal and focus Structure Content Purpose
  27. 27. Formatting highlights what’s important Bad & distracting! Much clearer! Focus on the data, remove the distractions.
  28. 28. Highlight what matters, remove the rest • Geography is modified to show logical meaning • Colors encode party. • Saturation encodes turnout. • Outlines group regions. • All other details removed.
  29. 29.
  30. 30. Summary • Clear purpose, accounting for who and why, is crucial. • Edit down content to only what’s necessary. • Select a structure that supports your purpose and reveals your content. • Use formatting to focus, not to distract.
  31. 31. Thank you! Reference & Resources • @noahi Twitter is the best way to get in touch • • • More on designing visualizations (1h 50m) • My favorite talk: When Not to Use Maps (11m) • Cole Nussbaumer’s Excel template • QuickSight annoucement