The world today is a data-driven economy. Businesses of all sizes rely on data to make informed decisions and stay ahead of the competition. The challenge, however, is understanding the data and communicating it to others in a way that is easy to understand. This is where data visualization comes in.
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Data visualization takes complex data and offers an opportunity to present events in a visually appealing and engaging way, making it seamlessly digestible for people to comprehend the numbers – which essentially serves to reflect how a business or organization is performing.
In fact, here are some fast facts on the significance of dataviz today:
- The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text,
- 65% of the world’s population are visual learners,
- And that we can instantaneously identify images – even when exposed to us visually in as little as 13 milliseconds!
Talk about the power of optics and brains, right?
With so much data available - 64.2 zettabytes across the globe by the end of 2020 - it is more important than ever for businesses to find ways to visualize and present that data to effectively reach their audience. This is why data visualization has grown to be an essential tool for businesses and organizations of all sizes.
That said, in this article, we discuss five actionable ways you can create visually appealing and engaging presentations using data.
Data visualization as an art form
Data visualization is an essential tool for businesses and organizations of all sizes. In a world where data is accumulating at an unprecedented rate, data visualization allows businesses to make sense of that data and act on it.
Per Yahoo! Finance, the global dataviz market had been valued at 9 billion USD in 2021 and is projected to grow up to 19.25 billion USD in the next six years – exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10.15% between 2022 and 2028.
What does this mean for your organization then? It simply shows that more and more businesses are recognizing data visualization as an effective way to leverage their strategies – so, what’s keeping your organization or business from taking your processes to the next level?
Data visualization opens an avenue to express numbers that make sense when looked at through a larger lens. The best data visualizations are both beautiful and informative – they are eye-catching and easy to understand. They tell a story and paint a picture of the data; expressed through the use of charts and graphs, infographics, and other visuals.
For it to be truly impactful, a presentation using data needs to consider how it is designed and executed:
- Be selective when choosing a visualization for your data. Decide what the most important message is that you want to communicate, and then choose a graph or chart accordingly.
- Be sure that your data is clear, comprehensive, and easy to understand.
- Be authoritative as the subject matter expert by providing your audience with the necessary context surrounding your visuals.
- Be a substantial voice and choose visuals that are clean, uncluttered, and simple. Similar to how you present the data, the design of your presentation must also take function over form. Consider how your audience will perceive the design when coming up with the visualization.
- Be informative by using your visuals to reach, engage, and impart value to your audience.
Data visualization is not just about making data look pretty. Using the right type of data visualization – one that translates your narrative through the effective use of numbers and figures – can help brands, businesses, and organizations make better decisions, understand their customers better, and identify new opportunities.
So, without further ado, listed below are five ways your organization can start crafting compelling presentations that make use of relevant data.
As the old adage goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
5 tips to craft impactful data visualizations
To effectively convey data to an audience, businesses need to take a few things into consideration. The data must be accurate, the visualization should be clear and concise, and the overall design should be aesthetically pleasing. But most importantly, businesses and designers need to ensure that their data visualizations are informative and tell a story that engages the audience.
Dataviz tip #1: Choose the right data
When selecting data points to visualize, businesses need to be selective and only choose the most important and relevant data. Trying to include too much data will only serve to clutter the visualization and make it more challenging for the audience to follow. In the end, you might have a lot of nodding heads that have yet to pick up anything worthwhile from your presentation.
To avoid that scenario from materializing, here are a few questions to ask so that you're choosing the right data points for your presentation:
- Is the data compelling and strong enough? Set benchmarks and averages to ensure that the data you are using makes sense to who is listening.
- Is the data accurate and up to date? Inaccurate data will only serve to undermine your authority and credibility. Always use reliable sources for your data by verifying the data points with multiple sources.
- Is the data the right choice for the presentation's narrative? Ask yourself if the data you've selected is essential to the story you're trying to tell. Validate your findings by looking into its real-world implications.
It is also important to consider what story you want to tell with your data. Put it into focus: What is the most important message you want to communicate?
Once you have answered these questions, you can then begin to select the data points that will help you tell that story.
Dataviz tip #2: Execute a design that fits the data
When it comes to data visualization, the design should always take a backseat to the data. It cannot be emphasized enough, but the visuals should be clear, concise, and easy to understand – all without disregarding its relevance to the data.
Data on its own is powerful, and when presented using the best-fitting design, it helps your audience understand its significance as they get to see the “bigger picture.”
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Avoid overcomplicating the design. A complicated design will only serve to distract from the data. Keep the design clean, simple, and uncluttered.
- Select the most suitable charts and graphs. There is a wide variety of charts and graphs available, so it's important to select the ones that are most appropriate for the data you're visualizing.
- Leverage the effective use of colors, layout patterns, shapes, and sizes to emphasize certain data points. Use them sparingly and only when necessary.
- Use text with care and precision. Use labels, annotations, and titles sparingly. The data should speak for itself.
- Tell a story using contextual clues with consistency in your overall design. A data visualization is only as good as the story it tells. The design should be seamless with the narrative and help guide the viewer through the story.
Dataviz tip #3: Consider your audience
When crafting data visualizations, businesses or designers need to take their audience into account. The data points you select and the way you execute the design should be based on who will be viewing the presentation.
Are they experts in the field? If so, you can use more technical jargon and include more detailed information in your presentation. Dataviz can be a boon in many corporate brands’ sales or operations alignment meetings, especially when covering the organization’s year-to-year goals.
Are they laymen? If so, you need to ensure that the data is easy to understand and that the visuals are clear and concise. For example, using dataviz for your social media management like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter as part of your business's digital marketing strategy can be a cost-effective way to reach and engage with your online audience.
Are they decision-makers? If so, the data points you select should be relevant to the decisions they need to make. Appeal to their emotions through compelling arguments founded on relevant data.
Are they visual learners? If so, the overall design should be aesthetically pleasing and engaging. Dataviz can also help advance educational techniques and teaching strategies with the right tools.
When considering your audience, here are some points to remember when designing your presentation:
- Keep your visuals consistent, simple, and organized
- Evaluate the accuracy and relevancy of your data
- Select the appropriate charts and graphs to present your data
- Choose colors that help your audience understand the data easier
- Use the right images with the right data to provide proper context
- Include engaging and interactive elements to keep your audience engaged
- Use animation accordingly so that it doesn’t take away any important points from your presentation.
Dataviz tip #4: Determine your purpose
Before you begin designing your presentation, you need to determine its purpose. What is the goal of the presentation? Are you trying to inform, persuade, or entertain your audience?
Once you've determined the purpose, you can then begin to select the data points that will help you achieve that goal.
For example, if you're trying to inform your audience about a new product, you'll want to include data points that highlight the features and benefits of the product.
If you're trying to persuade your audience to invest in a new company or project, you'll want to include data points that showcase the potential return on investment (ROI).
And if you're trying to entertain your audience, you'll want to include data points that are humorous or interesting. Talk about the stuff that might give them that “lightbulb moment.”
No matter what the purpose of your presentation is, always remember to keep your visuals aligned with your goals and objectives as an organization.
Here are some things to consider that can impact the purpose of your presentation:
Applying a thematic design
Your presentation should be using colors, fonts, and imagery that work well together and help to convey the overall message of the presentation. As opposed to a presentation designed without any recurring theme, having a consistent theme will make your presentation look more professional and put-together.
Using motion and interactive elements to engage your audience
Adding motion and interactive elements to your presentation can help engage your audience and make your data more visually appealing. It primarily serves to keep your audience glued to what you’re presenting – which a boring and plain presentation with dull slides might fail at doing.
Animations can be used to draw attention to important data points or highlight a particular element of the design. Meanwhile, interactive elements, such as charts and graphs, can give your audience a way to interact with the data and better understand the information you're presenting.
Limiting the use of text in your data visualization
When it comes to data visualizations, less is more. Too much text can make your presentation look cluttered and can be overwhelming for your audience. Like any brilliant work of art, let the visuals do the talking instead of using text to explain the data. Use labels and annotations sparingly to explain what's going on in the visualization.
Maximizing the use of size and placement in your presentation
The size and placement of your data visualizations can have a big impact on the overall look and feel of your presentation. Use size to draw attention to important data points or to make a particular element stand out. Placement can be used to create a sense of balance in the design or to lead the eye around the presentation.
Using the right colors to convey your message
Choosing the right colors for your presentation is important in creating a visually appealing design. The colors you use should be chosen based on the message you're trying to convey.
For example, if you're presenting data that shows growth, you might want to use green to represent that. If you're presenting data that shows a decline, you might want to use red.
Leveraging the visual hierarchy on the page
The visual hierarchy is the order in which our brains process visual information. When designing your presentation, you should keep the visual hierarchy in mind to ensure that your audience is seeing the most important data points first.
The easiest way to do this is to use colors, size, and placement to draw attention to the most important data points, so maximize its use to achieve your objectives.
Focusing on the point of your presentation
When creating data visualizations, it's important to remember why you're using them in the first place. The goal of data visualization is to communicate data in a way that helps you reach your audience effectively. If you lose focus of that goal, your presentation will be moot – providing less impact than it could have had.
This is why it is important to stay focused on the objective of your presentation. Trying to cover too much information will only make your presentation confusing and difficult to follow. Keep your audience in mind and choose the data points that will be most important to them.
Dataviz tip #5: Retell real stories with numbers
Storytelling with data is a powerful tool that can be used to communicate data in a way that it flows naturally for your audience. It enables you to weave a narrative with your data and make complex information, like sets of random figures, more relatable in the real world to real people.
Here are more tips to keep in mind when creating data visualizations:
Use the most suitable data visualization tools
There are a variety of data visualization tools available, and the right tool for you will depend on the type of data you're working with and the story you're trying to tell.
If you're working with financial data, for example, you might want to use a tool like Tableau or Excel. Otherwise, if you're working with more complex data, you might want to use a tool like D3.js. And if you are a dataviz designer who wishes to create stunning charts and reports, there’s no better tool than Datylon for Illustrator.
Use the charts and graphs that make sense for your data
A basic consideration that is often overlooked, even by professionals, but always consider how not all data is well-suited for every type of chart or graph. There are many different types of charts. If you want to learn more about each chart, what it is used for, and how to create it effectively, we strongly recommend you check out our chart library. It’s full of valuable chart resources, pro design tips, and great alternatives.
Create different charts to visualize big data for your narrative
If you're working with a large dataset, you might want to create multiple charts to help visualize different aspects of the data.
You could, for instance, create a line chart to show overall trends and a bar chart to compare different groups. A treemap is also a great choice to visualize hierarchical structures in a compact way.
Here are some ways to navigate your data visualization:
- Infographics are a fast and easy way to take a complex topic and break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Slideshows offer an easy way to present a large amount of information – including text, images, videos, and charts – in a way that is easy to follow.
- Videos provide a more flexible way to add an emotional component to your data and make it more engaging.
- Maps provide a helpful way to visualize data that has a geographical component. A heatmap is one example of this dataviz.
Takeaways: how to elevate your business processes with data visualization
At the core of data visualization, you need to build and design a presentation structured around relevant data points and tell a story that is worth sharing. Apart from the five tips we provided, do check out this guide to effective visualization for an in-depth discussion on its basic principles.
When done well, data visualizations can help you tell a story with your data and make unintelligible numbers more accessible.
Datylon offers you a tool to design and share engaging, reusable, and on-brand data stories. Whether you want to create individual charts online with our free chart maker, or more complex, beautiful, data-rich reports within the Adobe environment. With Datylon, you can enjoy full freedom of design.
Try it today for free and see how easy it is to transform your data into stunning visuals that will engage and inform your audience.
Bernard San Juan III is the Managing Partner of Truelogic who comes from a successful career in online companies, where he played a critical role in building & managing workforce groups. He has redesigned the organization’s IT infrastructure to improve order processing and logistics. His skills include managing performance, managing costs and training. He also manages overall sales, customer satisfaction, graphic design, copywriting, and training with first line supervisors.