Seeing What You Mean


Data is a vital part of any business, and software tools make analyzing that data easier (and cheaper) than ever. Despite the relative ease of crunching the numbers, it’s often difficult for businesses to explain the full importance of the data to stakeholders, customers, and potential investors.
Simplifying Complexity
When trying to convey complex abstract concepts, visuals become vital. Complex data measures growth, correlations, comparisons, and reveals insights that are hard to understand in spreadsheets or standard PowerPoint graphs. Delving into such strategic topics through words and spreadsheets alone can quickly add up to many dense pages that few people will even begin to read. On the other hand, by conveying data-rich information in a few elegant visuals or a single infographic, you can easily convey its overarching point—and persuade your audience in the process.
Comparisons and Correlation
At their best, presentations and visualizations can make data come alive in an engaging, comprehensive way.
Edward Tufte, noted Yale professor and master of data visualization of the NYT, taught that creating a memorable visual display comes down to skill, and knowing which elements to include (and which to leave off). Every ounce of creative muscle should be applied to creating something that instantly imparts information to the viewer; you don’t want frustrated people trying to puzzle out the meaning of the work. Tufte’s book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is well worth the read for anyone interested in the field.
Telling the Story
But how to choose which information and visual elements will best illustrate the point? In an ideal scenario, the visualization will make the audience instantly understand the relationships and causality of the data in play.

Slicing and Dicing the Information
Things to consider when building your visualization:
  • What's your point?
  • How can you prove it?
  • Which findings are you trying to compare?
  • What information best supports that concept?
  • How should it look? (Pie/graph/overlaying information, a dashboard etc.)
  • What's the takeaway?
  • Why does that matter?
Get to the Point
There should also be an attempt to remove as much clutter or “noise” as possible. Lots of data is extraneous; when creating something streamlined, it’s important to focus on what matters. If you do it right, though, you’ll have a graphic that instantly conveys even the most complex data effectively and brings the idea to life. As it is said, a picture is worth a thousand words.

By Janet Odgis
See LinkedIn article here
Odgis + Co is an award-winning brand design studio based in New York City. We Make Business Beautiful.