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Six Principles of Communicating Data: A Checklist

2014 July 20
by Ben Jones

In a section of the first chapter of Communicating Data with Tableau (O’Reilly, 2014) I lay out six principles of communicating data: 1) know your goal, 2) use the right data, 3) select suitable visualizations, 4) design for aesthetics, 5) choose an effective medium and channel, and 6) check the results.

These principles address more than the visualization step alone, they address the whole process from crafting a message to delivering it and actually affecting another person or group of people in a meaningful way. They involve self-awareness (what am I trying to accomplish here?) as well as empathy (how will this impact my audience?). It’s not just a “numbers game”; it’s also about words, images and emotions.

I converted these six principles into a simple checklist that I could use to remind myself of all the important ingredients that go into a successful communication effort, including many that I often gloss over or forget entirely. It’s yours as a pdf to download, use the interactive version below, or view it as its own tab. I hope you find it useful.

Download the PDF file .

I don’t claim that this checklist is either exhaustive or revolutionary. There are many other principles that could be articulated, and most of them are common sense. I’d love to hear yours. If there’s anything sophisticated in these six, it’s principle #3, which is based on the work of Jock Mackinlay, my esteemed colleague here at Tableau.

We’re privileged to live in a world that comes after the previous half century, in which the work of pioneering researchers like Jock and others (Schneiderman, Card and Bertin to name a few) established the foundation of effective visual encoding of numerical information – or how we interpret charts and graphs.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below, and thanks for stopping by,
Ben


5 Responses leave one →
  1. July 22, 2014

    Very interesting Ben. Good to have these checklists. I am going to print it and stick on the wall. Sometimes, what i have e noticed is knowing your audience also helps a little to create the viz that appeals them. Know THY customers.

    ..kk

  2. July 24, 2014

    Ben.. Nice checklist.. pinned to the wall :)

  3. July 28, 2014

    Great checklist, Ben! The “What? Articulate your intended message” step within 1. know your goal hints at it, but for me there’s an additional step involving story. In my opinion, the best communications involving data make the data a pivotal or transformational point within a broader story/narrative.

    Great post, thanks for sharing, and I’m looking forward to reading your book!

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