Data that Jumps Off the Page
Most organizations collect and analyze data about their operations and then use it to inform, convince, and make decisions. Data visualization is a way of presenting data (numbers) and text in combination with images to make the relationships easy to see at a glance. The most salient information jumps off the page to impact the viewer without making him think too hard.
Very few of us in the library field are trained as graphic designers but we can explore what necessary skills or competencies we would need or seek out in existing staff or new hires. Whether you hope to develop skills in-house or choose to work with a professional designer, the first and foremost competency would have to be:
- The ability to recognize effective data visualization and understand what components contribute to its impact.
If you can articulate what works and what doesn’t work so well, you will be better equipped to identify the components you could use to make your own data stand up and speak for itself. The best way to achieve this is to look critically at lots of examples and to analyze their impact.
To get started, try the following exercise as you look at the library infographic examples listed below. As you focus on each poster, notice your immediate reactions and ask yourself these questions:
- What grabs my attention first?
- How quickly do I get the key message?
- Is there anything confusing about the infographic?
- Is there too much or too little detail?
- Do the graphic images make sense in relationship to the data?
- What would I recommend to improve the infographic?
After looking at all of them, please vote for your top choice in the poll below and tell us why you chose it.
- Colorado’s Public Computer Centers
Part of the project’s public awareness and promotion campaign.
- Public Libraries and Digital Literacy
Advocacy flier from Public Libraries & the Internet.
- Anatomy of a Librarian
Created by Master-Degree-Online.com
- How Libraries Stack Up: 2010
(Hint: switch to 50% view to reduce the size or “Fit to page” to get the overall graphic effect.)
Update on the OCLC report that examines the economic, social and cultural impact of libraries in the United States.
- What’s Really Scary about Social Media?
(Hint: click the magnifying glass to enlarge the image.)
Shared by Stephen Abram on his blog.
We collected your votes during January. Now it’s time to cue the drum roll and announce the winner. It is the OCLC visualization of their 2010 report on How Libraries Stack Up!
Of the 140+ readers who voted in the poll, an impressive 85% articulated the reasons for your choices. All of the posters were selected as high quality examples of effective infographics, so it is not surprising that similar reasons were given for what stood out to each viewer. Every infographic elicited comments about the strong impact, clear intent, engaging graphics.
Respondents stressed simplicity, plenty of white space, meaningful data and just the right amount of it. The designers resisted the temptation of too much information and chose eye-catching graphics that segmented the information nuggets, as well as augmenting their meaning. Many people responded to the colors, noting their appeal and their harmonious and unifying effect across the poster. Simple numbers, clear categories, and graphic emphasis made the data easy to grasp; relating data to very familiar cultural icons (Starbucks’s, credit cards) made a strong connection for the viewers.
For many, the decision was difficult and close second choices were noted. Below the results graph is a summary of your astute observations.
#1: How Libraries Stack Up
46.4% chose this as the most effective—“a marriage of art and function;” “shows in real terms how vital libraries are to our communities;” “information I can use to combat budget cuts from local authorities!”
- Layout: a lot of information in small bites; good balance of image and text ; plenty of white space; clean font styles
- Message: Not too wordy; clear intent; not too cute or complicated, information easy to read and comprehend
- Graphics: parcel each nugget of information; they “popped;” appropriate visuals to accompany stats; told the story without having to read the rest; reflected scale as well as topic
- Colors: colorful, but not overwhelmingly so; not distracting
- Data: comparisons with the familiar alternatives to libraries was an eye opener; good use of major (known) brands for comparisons; effective use of graphics to show the main point of each statistic
#2 Anatomy of a Librarian
28.6% chose this one—“a map of information, quick to absorb and define.” One respondent felt the title was misleading.
- Layout: good flow; professional appearance; very eye-catching and well-designed; lots of white space; best balance of text and images; good progression from one idea to the next; your eyes just flowed down the page
- Message: easiest to tell what the point was at a glance; I "got it" at first glance; beautifully designed and clean; info was concise and easy to read; bit of humor mixed in; lots of white space; liked the “comments” section; a lot of information presented clearly and concisely
- Graphics: eye-catching, atypical graphics; catchy graphics; most professional visually; memorable and amusing (although a bit clichéd) illustrations
- Colors: soothing; harmonious; unifying color scheme; muted colors were consistent throughout and didn't drag my eyes from one area to another before I had time to finish reading each section
- Data: not too much data, clear categories, meaningful data; presented in a fun way; but some of the data just didn't seem important
#3 Public Libraries and Digital Literacy
15% chose this one.
- Layout: very readable; simple design; professional; the most uncluttered; plenty of white space and simple fonts
- Message: just the right amount of information; easy to read, clear, to the point; stayed on message and not overly complicated; least amount of verbiage; key points bold-face type
- Graphics: circles are “friendly;” engaging; prominent
- Colors: attractive, easy on the eyes; bright and eye-catching
- Data: simple numbers that are visually larger than rest of text; clean clear data; percentages were bold; circular shapes made the data stand out clearly
#4 Colorado’s Public Computer Centers
6.7% for this.
- Layout: eye catching; short and to the point; easy to grasp in a single look; easy to follow, flows well
- Message: very few words yet the message was clear; not too much information; able to remember the salient points
- Graphics: kept your eye moving from piece to piece; didn’t overdo it; short and sweet—didn't feel like a homework or seminar handout
- Colors: combination is appealing
- Data: numbers combined with graphics and less text made it an easy quick read; compelling numbers, presented in a way that underscored their significance
#5 What’s Really Scary about Social Media?
Although only 4.3% chose this one, they did for the same reasons expressed about the others.
- Layout: good impact overall; instantly engaged; I felt drawn in; loved the humor
- Message: information makes an impact as a whole—makes you think
- Graphics: clear; visualizations pulled me in and led me down through them
- Data: presentation assures that I will remember the content
To explore other best practices in data visualization, see the webinar archive, Data Visualization for the Rest of Us: A Beginner's Guide.
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