Show Off Your Best Data!

Show Off Your Best Data!

What I am reading: The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State By: Nadia Murad

What I am listening to: Whatever comes through on my IPhone.

What I am doing: Planning a trip Crested Butte, CO to see the wildflowers!


Lately, I have been thinking about how we learn about a particular subject in school, but we often end up using a lot of other skills that we didn’t learn along the way. A few years ago I was tasked with managing my department’s assessment plan from developing surveys to finalizing recommendations. I took a stats class for my MPA, but I needed to learn more about data visualization for this work assignment.

Here are a few tips from my experience.

  1. Pie charts are used often as a data visualization, but can actually take some effort to read. To make it easier, start the largest slice of your pie at noon and put the data in descending order. Our brains try to judge the angle of each slice to understand the value of that slice in relation to the others. Having one slice that starts at noon gives our brain a good starting point.
  2. About 8% of men and 0.5% of women are color blind. You can make better graphs for people who are color blind, by doing a test print in gray scale. You should see distinct shades of gray for each color on the chart. Direct labeling can also alleviate problems with interpretation.
  3. Most of us use branding colors for data visualizations, but be careful about what colors you use and when. For example, red makes people think of fire trucks. If you don’t work for the fire department, maybe you don’t want your audience thinking about fire trucks while you present.
  4. Most people will turn their heads to read labels, which makes us read a little slower. Rotating you column chart 90 degrees to make a bar chart will make your labels read better and hold people’s attention a longer.

Below are resources for the finer points of Excel and making different types of charts.

Thanks Google Images for the charts and graphs!