‘Data visualisation is the graphical representation of information and data’

Good data visualisation allows people to easily make sense of data and can often even help them identify patterns and trends.

Two key concepts to understand that help with effective data communication are preattentive processing and visual perception.

Preattentive processing is the visual process that occurs subconsciously. It is when something visually represented grabs the users attention without them having too make much effort. When you look at a particular visualisation what do you instantly notice first? Why do you notice this? Chances are at least one the techniques below have been used.

Changing the form, colour or spatial position of your data draws attention to and highlights information very quickly. These techniques are used to separate visual elements from their surroundings. This stops people struggling to search through a bulk of information. Some of the techniques are stronger than others and can work differently for different types of data.

Here are a few examples using preattentive processing forms in Tableau –

Visual perception is another important element used to effectively communicate data. Visual perception is our brains ability to make sense of what we are seeing. Gestalt principles of visual perception explain how we group different elements together. Let’s have a quick look at some of these principles –

Proximity – We see objects that are positioned close together as belonging with each other.

Similarity – We group objects that are similar to each other.

Enclosure – We group objects together that have a visual border around them for example, a box or shading.

Closure – We group objects together by adding any missing pieces to a familiar shape.

Continuity – We group things that seem to align with each other.

Connection – We group objects that are connected as part of the same group.

Hopefully next time you are creating a visualisation with data some of these techniques will have to help you to communicate effectively!