Best Practices for Data Visualisation: Part 2

The last key concept is not new and is almost 100 years old: In 1912 the Gestalt School of Psychology began research into how people perceive patterns, forms and organisations in what we see.  This research culminated in the collection of the Gestalt principals of perception that explain the visual characteristics that cause us to group objects together.

A lot has been written about these, but briefly the characteristics are:
Proximity, Similarity, Enclosure, Connection, Continuity and Closure. 

These all relate to how close, alike, together and aligned objects are that cause our brains to interpret them as grouped objects, which helps us quickly determine aspects about them (whether they are bold or green for example).

The way objects are grouped, aligned or different means we perceive them as groups, this has 2 ideas for report designers:
 – we should group like items together, focus on the value add we are presenting by organising and minimising the data shown.
 – we should separate distinct items, by arranging the information in a way that makes sense, making sure that the important data stands out.

This way we can enable users to quickly interpret the data we are presenting.

But how do we do this?? Thankfully we don’t have to work this out for ourselves, there are some very clever and intelligent people who have researched these topics and provided some answers and guidelines.

In the next post, I’ll review some people who have been able to help me in my work and help others get the message across simply and clearly. 

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