Visualizations That Really Work

HBR Articles by Scott Berinato on Data Visualizations Best Practices for Presentations

Know what message you’re trying to communicate before you get down in the weeds.

Original Source: Data Visualizations   and and an updated Effective Visualizations. 

As a project manager, have you ever stared at your screen and asked yourself “how do I present this data?”  Yeah – we have all been there.

Focusing on data presentation is the wrong way to talk to yourself or your team. The important data visualization mindset is not about data wrangling, graphics or powerpoint, it is about the business message you want to share and what is the impact.

This article has great insight on 4 types of messages, and suggests which visualization tools or models work best. Great insight when you need to either motivate team members or defend choices for presentations!


How to present data

Best Practices for Data Visualizations

Idea Illustration. We might call this quadrant the “consultants’ corner.” and these “illustrations clarify complex ideas by drawing on our ability to understand metaphors (trees, bridges) and simple design conventions (circles, hierarchies). Org charts and decision trees are classic examples of idea illustration.”


Idea Generation. “Managers may not think of visualization as a tool to support idea generation, but they use it to brainstorm all the time—on whiteboards, on butcher paper, or, classically, on the back of a napkin. Like idea illustration, idea generation relies on conceptual metaphors, but it takes place in more-informal settings, such as off-sites, strategy sessions, and early-phase innovation projects.”


Visual Discovery.  “This is the most complicated quadrant, because in truth it holds two categories…..This article divides exploratory purposes into two kinds: testing a hypothesis and mining for patterns, trends, and anomalies. The former is focused, whereas the latter is more flexible. The bigger and more complex the data, and the less you know going in, the more open-ended the work.”


Everyday Dataviz.  “Whereas data scientists do most of the work on visual exploration, managers do most of the work on everyday visualizations. This quadrant comprises the basic charts and graphs you normally paste from a spreadsheet into a presentation. They are usually simple—line charts, bar charts, pies, and scatter plots.”


Very good food for thought as you are leading project teams in communicating with your stakeholders and leadership.

HBR article is written by Scott Berinato is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations, forthcoming from Harvard Business Review Press and available for pre-order.

Again check out his article on effective visualizations. 

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