Data Sucks, Says Who? 16 Creative Data Visualization Techniques to Showcase Your Numbers
2.5 quintillion bytes of data was estimated to be created every day in 2012. Wonder how many zeros would have joined that mind-boggling number by the present day! There is no denying the fact that data is becoming bigger and bigger, thanks to the digital world we are living in. It is barging at us from all directions- social media, emails, database, machines, sensors, HTML and so on.
Recording, storing and analysing this data is a BIG challenge in itself. When that is done, comes the next equally big challenge of presenting it before the investors, decision makers and the simple masses. That brings us to Data Visualization- the science of presenting data or information in a visually interesting way.
Say if I ask you how do you visually showcase data in your presentations, you would probably answer pie charts, bar graphs and charts. Good enough! Audience is, however, saturated with seeing these graphics now (no doubt that they effectively summarize the data findings). It’s time to up our data visualization skills! Our presentations, business reports, and marketing collateral deserve to tell interesting data stories packaged and presented through creative graphics.
Here are 16 creative data visualization techniques or ways to make people fall in love with and remember your data:
#1- Speedometer Dashboard
What is the speed at which the customer calls are resolved? Speed at which bugs are fixed? Or the current performance of organization sales, leads, KPIs and so on. This data can be depicted no better than with a speedometer dashboard. Give real-time updates of the organization performance and take corrective actions before the organization falls into any kind of trouble. Here’s a speedometer gauge that shows average handle time of a particular call centre:
The data readings on the gauge can be any number based on your data. For instance, rather than numbers, the below dashboard diagram shows the number of days taken by the sales team to successfully convert a lead to a sale.
It’s not at all difficult to create a speedometer gauge yourself. Click the link below to learn how to do it:
#2- Creative Doughnut Charts
Despite being available in PowerPoint, doughnut charts have not received their due. A doughnut chart is the same as pie chart but with an area in the centre that can be used to put information or icons. They have been criticized for making data hard to read but the audience is mature enough to understand the varying lengths of arcs as easily as the varying slices of a pie.
It’s limited use in presentations and a cleaner look make it a much better option than pie charts. We have nothing against pie charts, it still remains one of the best data visualization tools to show numerical proportion. But we can experiment with graphics a bit to treat our audience to something different this time. You can either use just one doughnut chart and show the numerical proportions or use a single doughnut for a single piece of data like in this slide below:
The varying sizes of doughnuts itself tell which is the most liked movie genre. The doughnut chart also looks slightly different from standard PowerPoint doughnut chart in that the spaces between slices have been increased to make it look even cleaner.
Here’s another doughnut chart that shows the ad spend across different social media channels:
It’s very easy for the marketing manager to know how much percentage of the budget allocated to each channel has been utilized. If your data slides are like these, who would say data sucks!
#3- Creative Pie Charts
Well, even if we have to use pie charts (because that is inevitable) why not make them visually more impactful and interesting for the audience. Just like we had reduced and increased the sizes of the doughnuts as per our data, we can do the same with the slices of the pie. Let the slices mirror the data in terms of length and breath.
The following creative pie chart is a bit difficult to create considering that you’ll have to place the pies manually.
#4- Circular Infographics
You cannot use pie charts where the sum of parts is more than 100 per cent. For instance, surveys where respondents can choose a number of options rather than one. Use of pie charts becomes misleading in this case. An infamous example in this case has been Fox News who used pie chart to show opinion poll for American 2012 elections where the total was 193 per cent!
Circular infographics, by nature of being an infographic, are colorful, eye-catchy and turn numbers into a visual feast:
#5- Creative Column Charts
The default PowerPoint charts and graphs with rectangular bars is slowly killing the audience interest in your slide. They have seen it too much. How about trying creative visual charts this time! All you have to do is adapt the default column chart or bar graph to the data you are presenting.
For instance, this column chart on quarterly review of four most popular fast food chains just adds shapes to the chart to make it resemble a fork. Your real estate data could do with buildings instead of rectangular bars, sales data could do with a stack of dollar notes, and so on. Just a little thought to the design and you will be a data visualization expert in no time!
Thinking how you can create such charts for your next presentation? Learn these 6 design hacks to turn boring PowerPoint charts into creative picture charts.
Thermometer is a nice visual metaphor to show data readings. The top of the thermometer represents the goal and the mercury level shows your current position. Often used in Crowdfunding presentation to show the funding goals and the funds received till now. Here’s an example of donations received via crowdfunding for different projects:
You can use the creative concept of thermometers for any presentation related to targets and achievements (sales presentations for instance.)
Again a metaphor for targets achieved and goals. The filling can show the sales closed by the sales representative, cash flow from different sources, and many more business concepts. Here’s a cash flow summary slide that uses this creative cylinder graphic and stands out from the usual boring data-ridden finance slides.
Charge up your presentation data with PowerPoint batteries. Here is an example of employee satisfaction survey findings of an organization that could have traditionally been shown in the form of a pie chart. But since you are telling how charged or unsatisfied the employees are, why not use a battery diagram like this:
Each bar in the battery represents 10%. Of course, a small drawback of this creative diagram is the difficulty in differentiation if numbers are close to each other. You would probably show 7% and 12% as one colored bar. A pie chart can show such differences accurately. Creative visualization has its own advantages- audience will appreciate the efforts you put in designing the deck and remember the data (nobody would remember the pie sizes but easily remember the growth in bars).
#9- Progress Bars
Showcase the progress of different tasks in your weekly or monthly reports with a progress meter. This is so simple to create- just a simple rectangle bar and the data depicted in a different color.
#10- Measuring Scale
Product research and marketing teams often conduct surveys within a company and outside to gauge the feedback of internal and external public. The respondents are asked a series of questions on different product parameters and are asked to rate their feedback on a score of 1 to 10. The team then analyses the feedback and presents the same before the decision makers, team leads and CEO. Such survey findings can easily be depicted through the same data visualization technique employed during research i.e. Scoring Scale.
#11- Weighing Scales
Show comparative data with a weighing scale. HR metrics presentation can easily employ a balance scale to show workforce diversity like in the example below. Icons can be added on the scales to make it visually more interesting. Inequality between any two sets of data can be represented using this data visualization technique:
Taking a cue from the above example, any data on employees can be depicted by showing their icons. Icons become a visual element in themselves and do not warrant any additional image or graphic to convey the meaning.
You can visually depict the percentage number (90%) or the information (say 9 out of 10 employees are disengaged) by showing the same number of icons in your slide i.e. 9. For instance, here’s a slide on percentage growth in hiring of various categories of employees:
You might be thinking- what if my data is not in perfects tens but something like 32.2%, 10.4 % and 57.4%. What do you do in this case? One way is to round off the numbers- 32.2% will still be represented as 3 icons and 57.4% as 6 icons.
The audience is mature enough to understand that you won’t giving a perfect representation of such a data. The other way to work around this data is to use larger icons and fill portion of the icons as per your data. For example, as done in the slide below. Trust us, the audience will not take a scale to see if the filling is done with precision. You must, however, be fairly accurate while showcasing your data in this manner.
#13- Tags and Arrows
Rather than using circular shapes like doughnuts and pie charts, you could also create your own shapes like rectangular tags as you see in the slide below. Showcase growth in any business activity by increasing the sizes of the tags. The example below may not be the most apt for this diagram but the idea is to emphasise the point- don’t use just numbers and text in your slide. Add any visual element of your interest as it forces the audience to pay extra attention to your information.
If you are speaking of growth, why not simplify the graphic and show just upward and downward arrows instead:
The purpose of using rectangular tags and squares is that no one has used them before. You can depart from the conventional data visualization styles to make your data look more interesting. Here are stacks of squares with the filled squares representing specific data.
#15- Indicators or Sliders
You often need to create Business Indicators dashboard for your presentation. While speedometers, pie charts, graphs and charts, and other visualization will hold a prominent place in your data summary, you can also use indicators or vertical and horizontal sliders to show the rise and fall in a performance metric as well as monitoring and adjustments made to different processes.
#16- Test Tubes
Labs are not the only place where test tubes belong. An effective visual metaphor, test tubes can easily depict the sales or leads converted till date, traffic generated, or inflow of any business concept such as cash inflow.
There can be hundred more ways to visualize the data. It all depends on your creativity. These 16 data visualization graphics, we hope, will get you started in exploring the creative side of data visualization. Trust us, using innovative graphics will add power to your data and the audience won’t fail to notice and appreciate your work. Data rocks if you know the right way to present it!
Tell us what you think of these data visualization techniques in the comments below.