My business partner, Alicia Cheng, and I met in graduate school, where we bonded over our mutual love of information design. Then in 2002 we founded MGMT. design, a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Brooklyn.
We work on a range of projects including data visualization, which is the presentation of numbers and information in a graphic format. Translating dense, quantitative data in more approachable, visual ways can help you better communicate, as well as expand and reach your target audience—but it can also be misleading. Here are four things a business can do to use data visualization effectively.
1. Know how data can help your business.
Imagine you have amazing statistics that demonstrate the impact of your business, but the statistics are in the form of a hard-to-read spreadsheet. Presenting your data in a streamlined graph or colorful infographic can help others to more easily understand it. Visuals such as charts and graphs can also help reveal correlations and patterns you may not notice when faced with a row of numbers.
2. Make sure your data is complete, clear and reliable.
A disorganized collection of data can hide the message you want to convey. Take care to keep your numbers complete and consistent for a strong argument.
3. Keep it simple (unless it’s complex).
While data visualization can help make complex data easier to understand, a good rule of thumb is to keep the data sets simple. You can always add complexity if necessary by layering on additional information to show a trend or pattern.
4. Be flexible.
Businesses often assume data will support their intended message, which may not always be the case. Not everyone knows exactly what the outcome will be when they collect data, and you may have to chart it in multiple ways to find trends and correlations. Businesses should be willing to adjust their expectations and message based on what the data reveals.