Effective Data Visualizations

Making sense of big data through visual communication

Icons, illustrations, and even brief text are good mediums in which to communicate information that isn’t based on numbers. But when you have access to great datasets, the best way to show off that content is through the creative use of charts and graphs. When it comes to effective data visualization, motion graphics, infographics, interactive interfaces, and other visual content can all be used to bring your data to life. The key, though, in any of these mediums is to reduce your reliance on text so you can create a more instinctive connection for your audience.

Motion Graphic on Global Health Security Featuring Animated Data Visualization

How one interactive infographic achieved
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Interactive Map: AAP Child Vaccination Across America

Series: BECU Learning Modules, Motion Graphics, Infographics

Visual Campaign: IIoT by Industry

Visual Campaign: IIoT by Industry

Interactive Dashboard Design: Ookla Speedtest

Interactive: Bluetooth Annual Report

Infographic: Red Bull Speed Drumming

Infographic: Red Bull Speed Drumming

How One Infographic Turned into a Multi-Year<br />Visual Partnership

How One Infographic Turned into a Multi-Year
Visual Partnership

The NEA’s Multi-Year Visual
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Data Visualization F.A.Q.s

From data visualization infographics to motion graphics, interactive dashboards, and social-media micro-content, your goal is always to make your data easier to understand and analyze. Visual content can achieve this because it reaches the brain 60,000x faster than text. By visualizing trends and conclusions instead of just describing them, numerical data can resonate better with your audience, keeping them engaged and wanting more.

One of the most common errors we see is that data is represented incorrectly on a graph or chart. Perhaps you used a pie graph to show a percentage increase. Or maybe you should have used a stacked bar chart instead of a traditional one. Whatever the case may be, the #1 rule to effective data visualization is to prioritize accuracy above all. You can’t build trust with your audience and potential customers if they feel your visual content is misleading.

Keeping this in mind, data viz can be deployed across a broad range of visual mediums. Particularly adept at visualizing compelling data visualization, motion graphics can help you stand out from the crowd through animated flow charts, pie graphs, and more. Infographic dashboards and other interactive content are easy to update if you have data that may change a lot over time. Or if you have just 1 truly compelling stat, share it as a piece of micro-content optimized for each social channel on which it appears.

When it comes to the many applications of data viz, the possibilities are truly endless.

What's the difference between infographics and data visualization?

It’s easy to confuse data visualization and infographics. Some people use the terms interchangeable, but doing so isn’t entirely accurate.

Data visualization is, at its core, the visual representation of any numerical information. It can be limited to a single graph or chart.

Infographics, meanwhile, are a collection of interrelated information — not all of it numbers-driven. Infographics may incorporate data visualizations, but they might also incorporate other types of information visualization, such as illustrations and icons. A quality infographic should always use as little text as possible to get its message across.

In fact, an infographic may potentially contain no data visualization at all. But whenever data is available, it is best practice to visualize that data to the greatest extent possible.

Is data visualization always the best choice for relaying information?

When you’re working with large sets of data, it’s almost always easier to recognize trends and glean the most important information from those datasets when they’re visualized.

That said, some types of data visualization are more effective than others. For instance, here at Killer Visual Strategies, we try not to overuse quantagrams for denominations over 10. Quantagrams are groups of icons that show a quantity. For instance, if 3 in 5 Americans live in a city (note: this is just a hypothetical stat), we might show 5 icons of human beings similar to what appear on bathroom signs; and we might also highlight 3 of those icons in red.

But let’s say we’re trying to visualize the concept of 300 million people. Showing 300 million icons is simply not possible. And including 300 icons, each representing 1,000 people, might not be so effective either. After all, it’s pretty hard for a reader to count 300 icons, and they’ll take up a lot of space to little end. In this case, the careful use of typography might offer a better answer.

Finally, of course, there are situations in which data visualization isn’t possible. When you’re not sharing numbers-driven information, opt for other types of information visualization, such as illustration, icons, and limited typography usage.

When it comes to effective data visualization, motion graphics seem to present unique challenges. Is a motion graphic the right fit for my project?

It’s true that motion graphics present unique challenges when it comes to showing your data visualization. But they also offer incredibly compelling ways to visualize your information that aren’t available in any other medium.

Motion graphics might present data on the screen for only a short time, making it a little more difficult to reference for viewers. How do you resolve this? Test your motion graphic draft with several different viewers, asking them if the data was on-screen long enough to read and process. You can even quiz them on the information later to assess their retention. And for viewers who want to reference your data later, embed your motion graphic on a page or blog post where the data is also written out or visualized in a static image for easy reference.

Data visualization in motion graphics may also seem like it’s harder to share on social channels. But no worries: simply provide your followers with static images that they can like and share. These pieces of social-media micro-content serve as the perfect teasers for urging people to click through and watch the full video.

So we’ve talked about some of the challenges. What can motion graphics do that static mediums can’t?

  • They can animate data so its full impact is felt. For instance, to show population growth, they can animate a quickly filling map or a line graph that’s taking off like a rocket.
  • They can deliver data on screen combined with the interpretations of that data in a voiceover. This helps you guide the narrative that your viewer walks away with.
  • They can offer additional context for understanding complex data. The unique visual storytelling capabilities of a motion graphic can make a data-driven story feel more human by incorporating character animations and dynamic scenes that your viewers can relate to.

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