Photos and images help tell a story. In addition to reinforcing facts, they can add information, set moods, and identify people, places, and things. In the business world, visualizations can condense and represent extreme amounts of information into a single graphic. Visualizations allow viewers to grasp concepts more quickly than with text, and retention is better.
How to move past standard bar, line, and pie charts
So what do you actually to to turn layers of complex data into visualizations that are easy to understand and have a small footprint? Think about the goal of the visualization. Is it explanatory or exploratory? Explanatory visualizations answer a question, for example: How many blue cashmere sweaters, and in what sizes, were shipped overnight the two weeks before Dec. 25, 2009? They also support a decision, communicate information, and increase efficiency.
Exploratory visualizations feature many facets of data and compare multiple data. Here, the user “explores” the data, asks questions and answers them. Examples include communicable disease studies and solving crimes.
Whether the goal is to explain or to visualize, the properties that automatically grab attention are the same – form, color, and spatial position. The human mind organizes visualization elements into groups or “unified wholes,” a.k.a. the Gestalt Principles. They are:
What are Visual Elements?
Proximity: Elements close together perceived as one
Similarity: Similar pieces, such as color or shape, seen as same group
Closure: An object not completely enclosed is seen as whole.
Enclosure: Boxed or shaded items appear as a unit
Connection: Connected elements, via lines, seen as one element
Symmetry: Pairs of symmetrical pieces not seen as individual pieces
Figure & ground: A star or a circle. Which do you see? The one seen is the figure, the other the ground
No matter a business’s message, visualizations make information easier to understand. Understanding Gestalt Principles is key to honing your message and achieving your explanatory or exploratory goal. And becoming a better storyteller.