Dashboard Week Day 2 – Information Design

by Juliet Craig

A picture is worth 1,000 data points.

Today in our lesson with Ann Jackson we learned about chart types and effective data communication. Here I recapped our lesson.

According to Juuso Kopenen and Jonatan Hilden, information design is the “art and science of transforming data into visual structures from which we can extract meaning.” And it, “consists of selecting, organizing, and presenting information taking into count the needs and characteristics of the selected target audience and context of use.”

The 7 meanings we can extract from data:

1. Make comparisons

2. See trends

3. Spot patterns

4. Spot exceptions and outliers

5. Understand causal relationships

6. Explain the past

7. Anticipate the future

The 6 main relationships you can visualize:

1. Magnitude/size (numbers)

2. Rank/order

3. Location (position) – mapping

4. Time – positions in time

5. Category – qualitative element

6. Connections – links between points

6 ways to organize data:

1. Magnitude (ascending/descending by value)

2. Rank by ordinality

3. Coordinates

4. Chronology

5. Category

6. Connection

7. Alphabetical/data source order

13 chart types and when to use them:

1. Bar Chart

 a. Comparison

2. Line Chart

 a. Trending time

 b. Better for comparing uneven gaps of time

 c. Shows continuity, change, & trend

3. Histogram

 a. Numerical evenly sized buckets

 b. Shows distribution

4. Stepped Line

 a. Useful to show time with abrupt change

5. Bar-in-bar

 a. Multiple comparisons in the same chart

 b. Direct comparisons with the aim of progress

6. Stacked bar chart

 a. Segments that make up the bar

7. 100% stacked bar chart

 a. Alternative to the pie chart

 b. Show the ratio of data

8. Area chart (aka stacked line chart)

 a. Shows cumulative comparisons over time

9. Slope chart

 a. Use with time

 b. Before & after (ignoring what happens in between)

10. Dot Plot

 a. Alternative to the bar

 b. See groupings and patterns

 c. Use when there are too many bars

11. Bump chart

 a. See change in rank over time

 b. Ignores magnitude

12. Cycle Plot

 a. Explore seasonality

 b. Pattern data, see repetition and recurrence

13. Scatter Plot

 a. See the relationship between 2 numbers

 b. Independent on x axis

What questions to ask before you start vizzing:

1. What does 1 row of data mean?

2. Where did it come from?

3. How much do people trust the data?

4. What are the limitations of the data?

5. Who is the audience?

6. What do you want to change?

7. How will the data help?

8. What are the highlights?

9. Where is the focus?

The idea of choosing effective chart types is to accurately display the data. When your client is looking for specific questions this is a good opportunity to refer back to this list to pick which chart and information you want to show.