Best Practices for Data Visualisation: Part 3

So who are these clever individuals who have been able to make some sense, give order and introduce simplicity into my work?

Edward R Tufte: http://www.edwardtufte.com
Since the early 1980s he has provided lots of thoughts around how we view and perceive data. One concept (among the many in his several books) I find very useful is the data-ink ratio, as it’s name suggests it was born back when screens and digital information were not a ubiquitous as they are now, but the same concept applies. 

When quantitative data is displayed in printed form, some of the ink that appears on the page presents data and some presents visual context that is not data (also called non-data).  The greater share of the ink should be on the data elements, not on the non-data elements (borders, shading, images, graphics).

Colin Ware:  wrote a groundbreaking book: "Information Visualization: Perception for Design". Some key quotes from this book, say more than I ever could:

“If we can understand how perception works, our knowledge can be translated into rules for displaying information. Following perception-based rules, we can present our data in such a way that the important and informative patterns stand out. If we disobey the rules, our data will be incomprehensible or misleading.”

“We can easily see patterns presented in certain ways, but if they are presented in other ways they become invisible.”

Colin organised the preattentive attributes of visual perception into four categories:

 – Colour

 – Form

 – Spatial Position

 – Motion

These categories are tied with the Gestalt principals in setting ground rules for design. 

Stephen Few: http://www.perceptualedge.com/ Has combined the previous theories with design, dashboard and communication ideas to give some key rules for report and dashboard design.

Stephen has written several books on designing tables, graphs, dashboards to progress the understanding of effective visual communication for data and quantitative analysis.  He and his team regularly blog,review and debunk some examples.  Always a great read: http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/

These are three very intelligent masters in the art of data visualisation.

The 3 key rules I now have are:

  1. Simplify: reduce the data presented
  2. Simplify: concentrate on the important information
  3. Simplify: remove unnecessary non data images, colours, images

Please read and review the best practices provided by others and then implement in your work.  Together we can
improve getting the message across and understood clearly.

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