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From a Design Perspective

Mar 19

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3/19/2014  RssIcon

Design experts understand that great design addresses every product detail. Think about companies that are experts at design – Bose, Apple, Kohler – how do we integrate great design into reporting and analytics?

We read mixed case 15%-20% faster than upper case. The mind recognizes letters and additionally the shapes of words. Concepts like this are very important since ease of use is a critical aspect of design. A piece of information should be able to convey its principle message in just a few seconds.

We want our consumers to “reach the brand” or “engage the brand” and design helps them to do this. Information should adhere to the organization’s brand –design your information so it has credibility, the right focus, conveys the right message and has an effective brand. Are colors you use in graphs using the same color palette as your logo?

Good design helps viewers organize information easily. One approach is to have a style guide or standards so your information has the same look and feel. If the report title, page x of x and date run are always in the same place, with the same font, the same bolding your consumers won’t have to spend time trying to figure out what these elements mean. This seems to be a trivial example but it’s indicative of the need to have cohesion wherever possible.

In today’s world the idea of coherent design gets a little more complicated. Which colors do we use for good, bad or indifferent? A few years ago, Chinese stock markets used red to indicate that markets had risen. Red represents luck and good fortune in China but the use of red for improved market performance was confusing for people outside China. Are you using conventional colors in visualizations? Do you know how to use a color wheel? Do you know how to mix paint? Art is designed to capture emotion for a moment so you need to be skilled in the craft.

When should you use a bar graph and when should you use a line? We have many more choices and these choices are not always obvious. It’s become easy to add “design clutter” to information. We’ve seen graphs where a 3rd dimension has been added to the bars even though the 3rd dimension doesn’t convey any additional information.

Small nuances make a big difference in the end user experience. Look and feel is important. If we’re doing a slide deck for a meeting, are we using colors that reinforce our brand? Do we display numbers over data points or do we rely on the axis scales and leave it to end users to estimate numbers? Do we have annotations for critical outliers? Is the information presented in a neutral fashion? Do we need to consider any ethical aspects of what we’re presenting?

Mobile has added additional complications. A mobile presentation needs to be simple and understandable whereas a desktop presentation can have a greater degree of information density. Viewing information on a mobile device may be done while leaning back on a couch. When will the information be viewed: between meetings on a tablet or at someone’s desk after the meetings? Good design should address the method, physical location and times it will be viewed.

It’s interesting that some visualization tools don’t have a print button or on the highest level menu. This is indicative of how quickly information tools are evolving. It would have been unthinkable a few years ago to not use print as the primary method of distribution. We need to rethink how we address the printed report experience.

The evolution of how information is used requires us to be better artisans and designers. We’ll need to understand image editing, color schemes, physical interaction and more. Doing it well means our information stories will be more compelling and effective.

Reflections From The DRIVE Conference
/Data /Reporting /Information /Visualization /Exchange


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