Visualizations are powerful tools for communicating complex information in a clear and engaging way. However, creating an effective visualization requires more than just picking a chart and plugging in some data. To truly communicate a message with visualization, we must ask the right questions and carefully select the pieces we need to tell our story.

Preliminary questions

To transform data into information, consider answering the following preliminary questions:

  • What are the audience’s requirements?

  • What information do they seek?

  • Which message do we want to convey?

  • Are we trying to explain a complex concept, highlight a trend, or persuade the audience to take a particular action?

Once we understand the message, we think about conveying it visually. Consider answering the following questions:

  • Is a graph necessary for presenting data, or would words, pictures, diagrams, or illustrations be more effective?

  • How can we convey the message?

  • Which type of chart will convey the message effectively?

Each chart should focus only on the most important information. Don’t overwhelm the audience with too much data or visual elements. Instead, choose the pieces with the greatest impact and effectively support the message.

Choosing the best chart

First, we need to understand what we are trying to communicate in order to choose the best chart. To do that we need to select the simplest chart that effectively tells our message. By keeping the chart simple, we can avoid unnecessary clutter that may confuse the audience and detract them from the message we are trying to convey. Additionally, a clear and concise graph allows the audience to understand the data and draw accurate conclusions easily. Ultimately, the goal is to select a chart that effectively communicates our message while being easily understandable to our intended audience.

Consider answering the following questions to choose the best chart to convey the message.

Are we emphasizing only on a single crucial piece of information?

If the answer is yes, we’ll choose one of the following charts (or their alternatives):

  • A Big Ass Number (BAN) is a single number or fact highlighted with larger, bolder, and more colorful text, making it effective in capturing the audience’s attention.

  • A donut chart draws attention to a single percentage.

  • A 100% stacked bar chart captures the audience’s attention on a single percentage.

  • An icon array uses icons related to the data to show a single percentage. We can use it to tell dramatic stories.

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