Let me help you communicate with clarity and impact with publication-ready data graphics, interactive data displays or dashboards, digital reports and infographic or data journalism-style stories and summaries.
We’ll get away from dry tables and junky charts. You can explore and learn with facilitated data exploration sessions and flexible, interactive reports. And when you are ready, powerful presentation design lets you present your new data graphics and ideas with concision and impact, while D3.js technology lets you put interactive data visualizations on your website, without the need for costly proprietary software.
Effective visual data analysis and presentation makes the most of your data, for marketing, business intelligence and management, public policy, program evaluation, data journalism and advocacy.
Bringing your data to the world often involves, or should involve, your website. One way of presenting your data on a site is to use static images and slidedoc-style presentation methods. This is effective, as always, when the design is done well. An even better option is to provide interactive data displays to viewers of your site and digital documents.
When designed and executed with the same attention to clarity and economy and principles-based design as was presented in the previous section, this opens up a world of possibilities.
You can see lots of examples of interactive D3.js in the Portfolio section of this website.
A few examples here, though. The line charts below allow you to use your mouse or trackpad to emphasize the series in which you are most interested, one at a time. Other interactive features of D3.js include tooltips that provide the viewer with more information on what they are seeing, on demand, and “toggle” functions that can turn some of the data on or off, letting you focus on what is most important in a complex picture. Try moving your cursor over/clicking on the examples that follow, as indicated.
The interactivity of D3.js visuals connect contextual and in-depth information directly to visual data displays, as in these standard chart examples, making possible highly engaging digital reports saving all kinds of text, time and space. Moving your cursor over the country name labels displays text below or within these charts.
Arc diagrams can help impart ideas where many things are interconnected, logically, through time or otherwise. These can illustrate narratives, stories and models. This example of logic model connections replaces conventional logic model box-and-arrow formats in a much more engaging way. Passing your cursor over the nodes and the arcs reveals the model’s connections. Blue nodes are the originator, or causal effect, in each relationship, with green being the node that is affected. Arcs on the top half move left to right in causal direction, while arcs on the bottom half move right to left.
You’ve already seen an example of social network mapping on the previous page. Interactive presentation allows viewers can understand and engage with presentations of complex data.
Double clicking on any point shows that person’s (or organization, etc) immediate connections. I could have also included labels as identifiers, added tooltips to display information on each node, or a number of other options. To my knowledge, this level of web page interactivity for social network mappings does not exist anywhere else.
All kinds of effective and engaging visuals are possible with D3.js. You can zoom in for detail on this map and reposition it by dragging with your mouse or trackpad.
Exploring and understanding your data, and presenting it clearly to others, depends on making the right choices in graph type, design and presentation. The right visual data analysis graphs, like these examples of small multiples, a table lens and a heat map, with a little explanation can replace reams of tables and text.
More familiar forms of data graphic also benefit greatly from good design. Good data visuals are based on solid principles and experience, as I learned taking training from Stephen Few and Duarte Design.
Dashboards and similar displays are another important tool to help you see what your data says, quickly and in one place. They can be static or interactive, but the key is to summarize the critical data in one clear view
I provided this mapping of survey responses to a client, who was then able to select and focus on the various categories and regions, seeing the whole picture while dispensing with pages of description.
Annotated dashboards provide just enough interpretation to guide the reader and flag any data or other issues. This format could be the backbone of any briefing session, or even a public report.
As we look at the annotated dashboard, we drift toward forms of reporting that can do away with the traditional paper document as a reporting format. These include several kinds of digital report styles.
The slidedoc is a form of digital document, based on PowerPoint or other presentation software, that presents a highly-visual summary of key points.The document is meant to be read on a computer screen, and can contain interactive features such as hyperlinks to let a reader “drill down” to more detail, as well as links to navigate around in the document. A great use of slidedocs is as a briefing preparatory to a meeting, as a way to reduce reliance on decks of printed material. It also takes away the pressure to include absolutely everything in you slide presentation.
This is an example of a slidedoc page. The design of a slidedoc is critical to its success, including the quality and relevance of the data graphics, the succinctness and clarity of text, and other visual design elements. I have recently, as an example, prepared slidedoc summaries and corresponding slide presentations for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s evaluation and audit groups, which supported both their internal briefing processes and inter-agency consultations.
Digital reports can also be based on html pages, like a web page, but used as a standalone report, either internally or hosted and displayed for public viewing. These reports are ideal for inclusion of the kind of interactive data displays discussed below.
From there, it is only a short jump to “infographics”. An infographic is a one page, paper or digital, depiction of a concept or issue and supporting facts and data in a highly visual format. By far the best approach is to rely on the elements of: a cohesive “story”, or set of points that contribute to a clear understanding of the issue or subject at hand; use of high quality data charts as discussed earlier to do most of the work in describing quantitative and even some qualitative information; use of other images only in so much as they impart information, like maps or diagrams, or clearly support a flow or organization of information, such as those created for this purpose by visual presentation leaders like Nancy Duarte; and strategic use of text to ensure that the information is understood. There are many examples of this style, but, not to sugar-coat it, these good examples of the potential of infographics have all too often been obscured by a profusion of “infographics” that are really nothing more than a jumble of related but unconnected “factoids” placed on a page with bright colors, symbols and numbers. These are generally designed by people who do not understand data or how data is best presented for clarity and comprehension. As you might guess, I will not do this. I will, however, give you coherent one-page data-based presentations of a subject or issue that will tell the “story” in the data.
Presentation of data to the wider world of your stakeholders, customers and the general public can take any of the forms discussed above, but the key is always the quality and clarity of the data visuals. Good data graphic design follows principles to accentuate the message and suppress the irrelevant.
My visual data clients include the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, The Agency for Co-operative Housing and consulting companies doing work for the World Bank, the Girl Guides of Canada and Toronto Community Housing. I have conducted repeats of my skill-development workshop for the Canadian Evaluation Society.