7 Data Visualization Tips That Will Immediately Amplify Your Message

Data Visualization Tips

These days, it’s a battle royale trying to hold people’s attention. To make matters worse, we often needlessly clutter our slides with data and obscure our insights with visual debris. To give your ideas, fact, and data their strongest chance at being heard and acted on, you must find a way to cut through the noise, elevate your key message, and keep your visuals simple.

Here are 7 useful data visualization tips that will immediately power up your message:

1. Make a Crisp, Clean Color Choice

If you are projecting your numbers, consider limiting your palette to darker blues, greens and oranges. These colors are calming and exude elegance. On the contrary, yellows and neon colors are jarring and don’t project well. Use red sparingly. Red is perfect if you want to highlight or call attention to one key message, such as a decrease in sales.

And remember, it’s always best to default to your corporate color palette, if your company has one.

2. Keep your Lines Solid

Be careful with the use of dashed or dotted lines to depict data trends. Often used to show contrasting trends on a line chart, less-than-solid lines can be hard to decipher between one another. Use different colored solid lines instead.

3. Always Use Clear, Large Fonts

Slides crowded with bulleted text are a visual disaster (yikes!). Use a minimum of 18-point font for best viewing in any normal size room, and always start by using the approved font in your company’s brand guidelines. If your company doesn’t have a standard font, go ahead and choose a font you like but try to avoid narrow fonts like Times Roman, or fonts with serifs (you know, those curly-cues and fancy flourishes).

4. Incorporate the Legend into the Chart

A legend helps identify data on a chart when there is more than one series. There is usually no reason to place this element outside of the chart perimeter. It forces you to reduce the size of your chart and therefore, make it harder to see from a distance. It’s better to find some free white space inside your chart.

5. Be Conservative with Labels

Ask yourself: do I really need to label the value on every single data point in my chart? Could the unit measurements on the Y-axis get this message across? If you find it is necessary to label every value in a chart, perhaps a table would be a better way to present all that data.

6. Slide Headlines Should Offer Weighty News

The slide title is typically the first thing the eye goes to. Why make it generic and boring like “Annual Sales”, “Units Sold”, or “Percent Trained”? Create more impact by creating a blazing headline with your chart’s biggest take-away: “Annual Sales Beat Expectations”, “Northwest Region Leads in 2010 Unit Sales”, or “Employee Safety Training Lags in Department XYZ”. What’s the one thing you want your audience to remember about this chart? Put it right on top.

7. Tone Down the Gridlines

Consider carefully if you actually need gridlines in your chart. If they are visually useful in orienting your data points, don’t let them overwhelm the other graphical elements in the chart. Opt for a soft gray color rather than a thick, black, line.

Never again miss out on getting your story across because your visuals lack clarity. Try these easy tricks to keep your key message clean, clear, and at the forefront.

Ready to learn to design powerful visual presentations that will help sell your ideas? Check out our data visualization workshop, Presenting Data Visually.