Posted on June 6, 2016
Hunter Knowledge and Insights, LLC (HKI) offers services in data insights and communications. We purposely don’t refer to any of our work as data visualization and we don’t call ourselves data scientists. Why not? Because we have observed many popular titles and buzzwords come and go. Yet the need to collect data (facts about your business process), analyze the data, understand the messages, communicate the insights, and make decisions has been around since the first informed decision was ever made.
I started my career as an engineer. My engineering school trained us to solve problems. Engineers are problem solvers, the widget doesn’t matter – we solve problems. I find trends (or the absence of trends) in data and make recommendations that will provide solutions for problems. I’ve been doing that for more than 30 years, long before anyone put the words data and science next to each other and started paying people $200k a year to create complicated, colorful pictures that allegedly tell a story. I’m not senile yet, but most visualizations I’ve seen are so busy I find myself often asking, “So…what are you trying to tell me? What am I supposed to DO with this information?”
Tip 1: Help your audience by making the insights obvious.
Luddite or Curmudgeon?
Neither! But honestly, the statisticians and mathematicians I worked with in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s were great at showing me a visual representation of the dataset I provided and working with me to tell the data’s story. I LOVE today’s new tools, really. I just don’t think anyone needs to use every feature at their disposal in one visualization or make the visualization larger so it can be called an infographic. What is an infographic anyway? It’s short for information graphic, a graphical representation of information. I see a poster delivered digitally. What are best practices for designing a good poster? Communication, but hold that thought, we’ll talk more about data communications in a future blog post in our data and communications category.
Tip 2: When in doubt, simplify and eliminate a feature.
The Point is the Story
The point of a visualization is the insight it provides. It’s to tell a cogent story when words would otherwise be cumbersome. The point is to make decision-making compelling, obvious, and easy. And so, we will continue to help our clients sift through data overload and too much information by creating simple visualizations that tell compelling stories for leaders to use to make informed decisions. Let us know if we can help you find the story in your data. And since we aren’t luddites, tell us what we’re missing in the comments.
Tip 3: When the audience is making decisions as if the decisions are obvious, your visualization was successful.
Here are visualization resources we like:
- Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, Storytelling with Data, Visualization Gallery
- Dona Wong, Wall Street Guide to Information Graphics
Data Blog Series
We blog about data insights and communications every two weeks on Monday. The next post in this series will focus on data communications. Add your email in the panel on the right to receive a notification and you’ll also receive our monthly newsletter with more tips.