Pro Tips: Creating Data Visualizations

Tips from Andy Boyle, data visualization consultant, Chicago Sun-Times

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●  Remember your audience. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has no knowledge of this subject. What terms do you need to explain? What can you get rid of that might confuse them? If possible, share your project with others to get their initial thoughts, and don’t try to defend your choices, just listen to what they have to say. If you hear the same issue multiple times from different people, they’re probably right. Fix it.

●  Data is political. Humans made choices about every data set you’ll ever come across. These are designed objects, which means some data is left out, some data is included that may be worthless, some data may be pulled in such a way that makes it worthless. You need to examine the creation of the data set and who made these choices before making your own decisions on how to display the data.

●  Simpler is better. Complex graphics and charts are often made to make the creators feel awesome. That’s not your job. Your job is to communicate information effectively to your audience. Sometimes the best way to display data is through a simple table with numbers. Sometimes it’s through a paragraph of text. Other times it’s through a simple video.

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