Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Representing Data Visually & Effectively

If you watch TV Series such as Suits, Mad Men, Californication- the one thing that is common across all these series is witticism. The way idea is communicated to audience is simple & brilliant. For instance in Suits Season 2 one of lines from Louis Litt " Don't do sex before a big thing- It shakes your legs and clouds your judgement". What I like about these genre of programming is focus on writing and writing is simple, humorous and effective.

I don't think we give due credit to "Simplicity".We appreciate complexity far more than simplicity but the fact is that simplicity is an advanced form of complexity. One can achieve extreme level of simplicity in anything only when one understands the process/work perfectly.

The same problem lies in representing data. The general assumption is to trouble your audience with a playground full of data but we missed that real objective is to understand the meaning of data.

Data is beautiful and insightful, if you know how to represent it. The key is to simplify data and represent in a form that it tells reader, a clear picture.There are different ways to represent data. Thanks to MS, we use only the most common ones tables, histograms, pie charts, bar graphs, pivot table etc. Sometimes, we need more than these traditional ways to represent data effectively for our readers, otherwise as usual it would be a glorified suicide by Microsoft presentation. 

Key :-

1. When representing your data, get to the point fast and quickly.

2. Thought process should be clear- The crux of presentation should be in your mind as an elevator pitch- If some body asks you in a lift-" What are you going to represent" You should be able to respond within one line keeping in mind usefulness of the presentation to that person.

3. It should tell your audience in 5 seconds- Why we are here?

Here, I also want to share ideas of Hans Rosling, who has given an awesome talk on TED. Hans Rosling used a software GapMinder to represent data however the beauty of talk is six simple techniques for presenting data which transform a run-of-the-mill presentation into a must-see presentation.

Here is the video to Hans Rosling talk:-

Six Simple Techniques are :- 
  1. Explain the data axes
  2. Highlight subsets of data
  3. Dig deeper to unwrap data
  4. Place labels close to data points
  5. Answer the “Why?” questions
  6. Complement data with energetic delivery
I encourage everyone to listen to this talk and understand the impact of representation of data on a presentation.

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