Don’t Be Intimidated: 5 Ways Data Visualization Is Doable

“Big data” loomed large in 2015. In fact, we heard it described at nearly every advertising or technology conference we attended. While industry leaders discussed the need for savvy data scientists, thought leaders, and data miners, few focused on an even more essential skill: data visualization.

At the Ad Council, we have no shortage of data. But, when it came to visualizing that data, we knew we needed some help.After all, what good is all that information without an effective way to share it? That’s where Stephanie Evergreen, PhD came in. Armed with her research-based approach to visualization, Stephanie joined us for a full-day workshop and helped us overhaul our presentations and rethink how we share our data.

Armed with the do’s and don’ts of design and visualization, here are 5 tips you can use right now to tell your data’s story.

1. Pick the right visualization for your data

Every kind of data has a chart that’s just right for telling its story.

Want to show trends over the last year? Great! Use a line graph or stacked column to show how your KPIs changed over time.

Interested in how groups differ on a particular survey response? Use diverging bar charts to highlight their deviations.

Stacked bar graphs or pie charts are great to show data that add up to 100 percent.

2. Use color purposefully

Turn your audience’s attention to what matters most. Use changes in color to call out key data points. You can even eliminate the need for legends by color-coding your headline!

Shades of gray, or other muted colors, are great for de-emphasizing less important or supporting data points.

3. Get to the point

Don’t fall victim to too much data or too many visuals. You don’t need to show every data point, just the ones that tell your story.

Pare down visuals as much as you can. Avoid using multiple fonts or text modifications like bold and italics.

On your graphs and charts, mute gridlines and axes labels. Only show all your data labels when each value matters, otherwise, highlight particular data points you want your audience to focus on.

4. Don’t mislead your audience with your data arrangement

Our eyes are good at catching inconsistencies in size, scale, and orientation. Always make sure your scales start at 0 and are evenly spaced. Ordering data from greatest to smallest also helps with comprehension.

5. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box — or bar graph!

There are plenty of ways you can customize Excel and PowerPoint visuals. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

Want to learn more? Check out Stephanie’s blog for great tips, tricks, and checklists to start transforming your data today.

This post originally appeared on

Jan 27 By: Danielle Bartolo

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