Week 1 – 3 take away messages
Week 1 of The Data School (TDS) is over. Perfect time to reflect and blog.
There were many take away messages this week, some of them already covered by my cohort-mates (want to know how Tableau handles calculations?, interested in hierarchies?). I wanted to focus on these three, not really Tableau-related, as I think they will be the foundation to deliver effective messages (and one of the areas where I know I have a lot of room for improvement): Tailor your Message, Keep it Simple, and use Visual Cues.
I have tried to apply some of the teachings by Caroline Beavon (who spent Thursday with us) on Infographics with some of Andy’s explanations to create the illustration below (or, even better, check the interactive version). Ideally, it should be self-explanatory (if not…failed!). Just in case, the description and some additional resources are at the end of the post. If you like it, or not, or have any comments, please leave them here or find me on twitter.
The use of visual cues and gestalt principles is beautifully explained by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic in her book storytelling with data. A useful online tutorial can be also found at the IBM Design Language site.
Good as they are, I think Andy’s way of showing it was more illustrative: he displayed, on the screen and for just a fraction of a second, some images using these principles. Then proved to us that it is, indeed, amazing the ability of the human’s brain to process information when presented in an amenable way.
The Zen of Python begins:
Beautiful is better than ugly.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Those three guidelines are applicable to the design of a programming language, but also to the design of a dashboard, an infographic…or for any message really.
Tailoring your message:
Know what you want to accomplish. Know your audience. And know your data. Only then can you deliver the message to elicit the response you intended. Some light readings on the topic can be found here and here.
In the image above, I have tried to…
- …illustrate the process of simplifying your message. From a rather condensed text (arguably beautifully framed) stating the relevance of maintaining simplicity in your message to a slightly better alternative with 3 relevant points in a less rococo frame and, finally to the key concept – the only thing actually needed.
- … recreate some of the visual cues and gestalt principles: in total there are 72 elements in the figure: 71 circles and one star. One main block composed of 49 circles plus the star are distributed in 5 rows of 10; a second block of 5 rows and 3 columns connected to the main one by 8 circles in the bottom row; and a third block of just 2×2 floating in the space between these blocks.
- …show the path to tailor your message: based on the aim you have (increase sales, provide information, showcase a product or, in this case, just to entertain); the audience you are targeting (executives, family, sales people or, in this case, a young crowd of teenagers); combine the type of data you have and then finally deliver your message (rock crowds).