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How to design good data visualizations, diagrams, and information graphics

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  Noah Iliinsky's Photo
Posted Jul 22 2010 12:59 AM

Here's an overview of my approach to creating good information visualizations.

As with any creative endeavor, most of the rules of writing and design (think first, implement second) are broadly applicable. This is the entire process for creating a visualization, more or less.

  • Understand your own goals. Are you analyzing or presenting information? Once or in an ongoing way? What does this visual need to achieve? Et cetera.
  • Understand the needs, biases, and existing knowledge of your audience (users, customers, investors, etc.); their perspectives are likely different from yours. Your success is measured by their success.
  • Only include the necessary information; if it's not helping get the message across, it's noise.
  • Define your axes so that placement becomes meaningful. This conveys a huge amount of information with very little ink.
  • Consider conventions and standards of your audience and how things occur in the physical world. Follow those conventions when reasonable to do so. Depart from them when you can create a genuinely better format.
  • Be consistent with visual encoding, placement, and other recurring visual elements.
  • Iterate, test, iterate some more.
  • Don't try too hard to be sexy; function first, sexy second.

For more in depth treatments, see my master's thesis, and Beautiful Visualization, below.

Cheers, Noah
Beautiful Visualization

Learn more about this topic from Beautiful Visualization.

With contributions from more than two dozen experts, this book demonstrates why visualizations are beautiful not only for their aesthetic design, but also for elegant layers of detail that efficiently generate insight and new understanding. Think of the familiar map of the New York City subway system, or a diagram of the human brain. These older examples have been surpassed artists, designers, commentators, scientists, analysts, statisticians, and others who show how visualizations using today's digital capabilities can help us make sense of the world.

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1 Reply

  Zishan Ahmed's Photo
Posted Aug 10 2013 11:46 AM


I prefer Microsoft VISIO. I found this application very helpful and easy to use. This application is fantastic for good data visualizations, diagrams, and information graphics etc. During the development of this site ApnarDeal.com i have used MS VISIO for lots time. You can check some works there.