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Four Things Data Viz Practitioners Can Do to “Get Better at Design”

A Google search for “how to get better at design” yields a featured snippet from an article, called “9 Ways to Improve Your Design Skills.” The list items shown are 1 Subscribe to design blogs, 2 take an online course, 3 read books and magazines, 4 follow along with other designers/design agencies, 5 pay attention to great design to see what they’re doing right, 6 utilize templates, 7 recreate designs for practice, and 8 experiment.
Great ideas, but probably not the quick help you’re craving.

1. Clean up your tooltips

Shows 3 versions of a tooltip with the same information — the first (“not ideal”) is a result of the tool default and has messy field names, while the second (“better”) is a complete sentence and the third (“better”) is a cleaned-up version of key-value pairs, e.g. “First observed: August 2017”

2. Declutter: Give your viz the Marie Kondo treatment

Left image shows a small, simple dashboard with a scripty-font title, two charts (a colorful bar chart and a vibrant line chart), each of which have gridlines, as well as two horizontal dividers and one vertical divider. This will be the little viz we build upon through the article. Right image shows the same dashboard with gridlines and dividers removed.
Remove ALL THE LINES!!
Left image is the same as the right image from previous, while the new right-hand image is the same elements with more space between the elements and the page borders, as well as between each other.
Add ALL THE SPACE!!
Left image is the same as the right image in the previous example, while the right image has the same elements with the addition of light grey axis rulers and slightly tighter spacing between dashboard elements.
Adding some axis lines works pretty well here, but we don’t need much more than that.

3. “Get it right in black and white”

Left image is the same as the right image from the previous example. The right-hand image is the same but all colors have been replaced by a medium grey.
Remove ALL THE COLOR!!
Left-hand image is the same as the right one from the previous example. In the right hand image here, there is a vibrant blue in use for the title, the bars, and the line on the line chart.
I love the monochromatic look, don’t you?

4. Typography: Err on the side of simplicity

Change the scripty font to a more basic Arial.
Go from Arial to a bit more interesting but still thoroughly legible font.

The final reveal

The left-hand image shows the initial dashboard we started with, while the right is the final product after simplifying the text, removing unnecessary lines, increasing the spacing, and applying color judiciously.
The final before & after. What do you think?

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