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What Are the Three Most Important Principles of Data Visualization?

Cluzters Admin 7 Sep 20

Taking the complexities of hidden insights within data and communicating them clearly is data visualization. As the audience expands for data visualization, the complexities and fields through which the data is mined also broadens. The software and tech used to harvest this data has also become more advanced.

As technology exponentially grows, it is good to remember the data visualization basics as the field becomes more diverse. Keep in mind these three principles as you work on data visualization.

Balance

Balance

When you think of balance, you’ll want to consider aspects of the design such as color, shape, texture, and negative space. These elements construct the visual elements and impact how your audience understands the information presented. Equal distribution of these elements helps the graphic demonstrate the information. This doesn’t mean that you need to have a perfectly even graph.

Rather, there are three main types of balance to utilize:

Symmetrical: the image can be a mirror of its other side.

Asymmetrical: the image cannot be mirrored, but both sides have similar visual weight to them.

Radial: elements of the image grow outward from a central point. This spot becomes the focal point of the design and the aspects of the graphic should balance around it.

Proportion must be considered with balance, as well. Sizing dictates the weight of the information and object. When thinking about balancing, giving the appropriate proportion to the information you convey will level out how the data is understood. This is especially important with pie charts.

Variety

Variety can be a hard principle to follow. It sounds contradictory to many of the other elements of design. However, variety is key to making your graphics engaging, informative, and memorable. That’s because if an image or graphic is too repetitive, it will become boring and your audience is more likely to not retain or understand the information. Using interesting and different elements in your data visualization will allow your viewer to engage with the information better.

An aspect of variety you’ll want to incorporate is rhythm. When the variety in your work creates a feeling of movement or progression, then you will know you have succeeded in your rhythm. This feeling of movement comes when the visuals naturally flow from one data type to the next in an effective way. Data in motion, if you will.

Variety

If your piece feels disorienting, then the variety of your piece isn’t working well together, and you’ll want to reassess the rhythm. This means selecting from a range of chart types to convey information.

Emphasis

What is the key point? As you develop the data visualization graphic, you’ll want to know what you want your audience to focus on. This needs to be the easiest point to determine for the audience. Careful consideration of the elements of design needs to be made here. Attention to the key data points should not go unnoticed. Think about where you want to place the focal point and put the most emphasis there.

Another quality your emphasis should have would be to follow a theme. This builds unity throughout the design. If you have a good balance and variety, then the theme should have a natural emphasis. Often, the source from which you are collecting the data will have a theme you want to follow. Though there isn’t a particular infographic to highlight for emphasis, bar charts, column charts, and other visuals should have an area of emphasis.

Quality data visualization requires these best practices. These don’t have to be complex, but there needs to be a correlation between insights and the data set. For companies looking to maximize communications throughout the corporation, a priority and standard need to be established for the visual elements of their data representation. Effective data visualization can make the difference between the target audiences’ understanding and confusion.