Karl Gude “is the former Director of Information Graphics at Newsweek, now a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism.” He was also the third presenter at the Global Online Visual Thinking Workshop webinar, in which I participated last month. In addition to Gude’s presentation, my post concludes with two additional “views” on presenting graphical data.
During his hour, Gude illustrated how to use graphs, charts and maps to present information, and shared innumerable examples, often depicting various stages of a particular graphic as each iteration improved upon the original. Gude’s message is that “the point of charts is to clearly illustrate data and not to be creative works of art!” and the point of design is to make “order out of chaos”, and to help accomplish that task you might want to consider using GRIDS as your foundation. Grids “are your friends” in that they provide a framework from which you can create just about any type of layout. To the right is a screen shot of a 6-column grid, which was part of a 2-page grid spread Gude used to illustrate his point. He went on to show several examples of layouts made with this grid.
To help keep your design consistent, Gude talked about the usefulness of having a style sheet, style samples, and avoiding Word Art at all costs, going as far to suggest that it be flushed down the drain.
Why bother with the quality of graphs, charts, maps or, for that matter, any other form of visual representation, be it graphic or text or some combination. Quite simply, to paraphrase Gude, if your data presentation looks sophisticated and can be easily understood, it leads to credibility and greater understanding. For more on information design Gude points to Nigel Holmes on the VizThink site.
In August of this year the New York Times printed the article Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data. The focus of the article is Many Eyes, a social sharing site for visualizing data. Many Eyes is an interactive site that lets people experiment with some 16 different ways to visualize both their own data and data supplied by others, and get feedback on the visualizations they create. For more about this process check out Richard Hoeg’s Many Eyes tutorial and his related blog post with additional links.
If you haven’t already watched Hans Rosling “debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen”, take a look at his February 2006 TED Talk. His company, Gapminder, unveils “the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view” using the Trendalyzer software developed by the company and acquired by Google in 2006.