Communicating data clearly

Preview of Strata Santa Clara 2013 Session

The 2013 Strata Conference in Santa Clara, CA will be my fifth Strata conference. As always, I’m excited to join so many leaders in the data and data viz communities, and I’m honored that I’ll be speaking there.

I will be presenting my tutorial “Communicating Data Clearly” at 9AM on Tuesday, February 26. This talk will cover methods and principles of creating effective graphs, to ensure they are clear, accurate, and make it easier to understand the data. It will also emphasize how to avoid common graphical mistakes. To give you a preview of a few of the topics I will be covering as well as to provide some information to those who cannot attend, I will now link to some of the blog posts I‘ve written for Forbes. I was invited to blog for Forbes at a New York Strata Conference in 2011 so that my relationships with Forbes and Strata are intertwined.

One of my early posts questioned the use of menus in software programs since these discourage “thinking outside the chart menu.” While the Excel and other software menus are useful for simplifying the process of adding charts to documents, they include too many chart types that should never be used and don’t include many useful little-known chart types. In this example, Figure 1 shows a diverging stacked bar chart as an alternative to a multiple pie chart, a common type of graph that does not communicate very well.

Figure 1: Original multiple pie chart

NBR figure 2

Figure 2. My redesign of the target audience figure

Other alternatives to multiple pie charts appear in “Arrow Charts and Other Alternatives to Multiple Pie Charts.” Arrow charts are particularly useful when we compare values over two time periods. The arrow chart post was coordinated with a how to post by Jon Peltier of Peltier Tech titled “How to Make Arrow Charts in Excel.”

Did you know that around 8% of the male population has a color vision deficiency? “Choosing Colors for Graphs that are Accessible to Most Viewers” stresses the importance of considering those with color vision deficiencies when choosing colors for graphs — it’s not as simple as just avoiding red and green. In “Consider Your Message When Choosing What Chart to Use,” three different bar charts are used for the same simple dataset to emphasize three different messages.

I will also talk about the graph makeover contest I conducted, for which I asked readers to use graphs to visualize a table. I was impressed by the number and quality of submissions I received from my readers. A number of readers expressed how interesting they found the variety of approaches to be. You can see some of the entries in “Visualizing the Table of the Graph Makeover Contest.

These examples, which show the style and type of information that will be presented, are just a sampling of the topics I’ll be covering in my tutorial.

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