We had the good fortune to attend a seminar with Dr. Edward Tufte, the granddaddy of data visualization. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of his sessions, we highly recommend it. The experience was a fantastic juxtaposition of art and science, much like this gorgeous rendering of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, first movement, Allegro con brio, as created by Stephen Malinowski.
There were so many amazing nuggets shared in this session, we felt compelled to share our favorites here:
- Look for "success in the wild." Publishers such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Weather Service, ESPN.com and Google Maps get a ton of traffic for a reason; don't try to reinvent the wheel - do what they do.
- Get quotes from experts in your field to bolster your own credibility on the subject; let them help you substantiate your knowledge.
- In all of your presentations, strive to show:
- comparisons, contrasts and differences
- multivariate situations, involving three or more variables
- integration of evidence: use words, numbers, images and diagrams, doing "whatever it takes" to convey your message
- documentation and downlinks
- quality and relevant content
- Annotate and call out your content to make it easier to understand.
- As resolution increases, we have more "flat surface" with which to communicate (think scrolling behaviors) as opposed to "stacked in time" (i.e, Powerpoint decks).
- Never arrange your data alphabetically; arrange it in a more meaningful way.
- If your numbers are boring, get better numbers.
- Don't be a data "cherry picker."
- Begin every meeting with "study hall," where you provide all of your content on an 11" x 17" sheet, containing an abstract: problem, why it matters, and what to do about it. Let your audience spend time reading it before you begin and spend your meeting time in focused discussion on the content.
- Arrive early. Scope out the room and the situation. Get to know some new folks. You might learn something.
- No matter what - finish early.
- Hierarchy is not a good way to share information; think of "links between" instead.
- Always design for your consumers, not your internal hierarchy.
- "As beautiful as the interface is, it would be better if there was less of it."
- So called "big data" has always been used in science, which is grounded in the laws of nature; behavioral and social sciences are much more unpredictable and difficult than rocket science.
We've learned that compelling simplicity is difficult. As Blaise Pascal one proclaimed, "I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one."