In this blogpost, we hope to give you some inspiration for your next visualization project.
For many marketers who are digging into the best approaches to visualization, we tend to recommend three different ideas for consideration:
- Using color and movement
- Employing less common graphs when they match your data,
- Exploring custom infographics
Each of these pathways require increasing levels of artistry, but they also are increasingly innovative data visualizations that can tell your story faster and more effectively.
Make it eye candy
One of the easiest data visualization ideas to get started with is infusing your graphics with interesting color and movement. For those of us who use typical visualization tools, our graphics tend to be “50 shades of blue.” There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but it's also not going to make your dashboard stand out from the crowd. Perhaps some purple can be included as a highlight color? Maybe you could use some orange for contrast?
Color can be a powerful tool to draw in a reader’s eye. However, as we’ve mentioned before, you want to be smart about how you use bold colors. They should be used for accents and attention grabbers. Also, it’s a good idea to keep your color palette a bit limited. Otherwise, you run the risk of your dashboard looking like a bag of Skittles.
Don’t limit your use of color to just the bar chart and line graphs, either. While many out-of-the-box dashboards will use white or light gray as the standard background, it may be worth considering black or darker shades for your background.
Think about this: most museums use white walls in order to create a clean environment around each piece of artwork. This can help a visitor focus on a preserved piece of art in a sterile and serene environment, free of distraction. On a dashboard with multiple visualizations, though, it’s a bit harder to create that isolated feeling where a viewer can focus on a single piece of data art.
By contrast, many modern creative agencies use black backgrounds when presenting client work on their websites. This is because the black helps the colors in the artwork pop off the screen. This helps the art feel bold, vibrant, and impactful. This could possibly be a good choice for your dashboard depending on the audience, data story, and application.
So, at this point, we have a few data visualization ideas to tastefully infuse our graphics with color. But what if we could make it move?
While this may require a little bit more technical knowhow, movement can make a huge impact. On the easier side, some data visualization tools and platforms allow you to create moving graphics for your dashboard. While they aren’t too complex, the subtle movement that they do create can help deliver the “wow factor” or help bring your data story forward.
On the more complex end of the movement spectrum is this. While the subject matter is a bit dark, it’s hard to argue that the visualization itself isn’t beautiful art. This likely required the help of a web developer to produce, but as we move up the complexity ladder, it’s a nice data visualization idea.
Find a hidden gem
Let’s take a moment to bring the complexity level down slightly and talk about which graphs or chart types we should actually be using.
As data-driven marketers, we know that not every chart or visualization is interchangeable. For example, some graphics are good at telling a comparison story, some are great at showing data over time (time series data), and others are great at showing distribution. However, that doesn’t mean that every comparison graph needs to be a bar or pie chart. In fact, there are many options available.
By selecting relevant but lesser used graphs, you can bring that little touch of difference to your dashboard to help it stand out. Need some more specific data visualization ideas?
Ditch the pie for a donut. Use a radar chart to tell the story of attribution or contribution. Even a Nightingale Rose diagram can bring a little extra flare to a normal stacked column chart. In each of these examples, the magic happens when you take a typical visualization, and give it a little twist to make it unexpected.
As with color usage, it’s important not to take things too far. Your audience still needs to understand what they are looking at and grasp the insights — quickly. Plus, if your data doesn’t quite fit the graphic you're aiming to use, the results could be rather confusing for a reader.
What if color, movement, and visualization choice isn’t taking your graphics to the level you need? Well, we have another data visualization idea for you.
Next stop: designer land
As we hinted at earlier, we were going to start off with some simple steps to improve your graphics and slowly increase the complexity and artistry factor. We are now, pretty much, at the top of that mountain. Here, you will probably want to enlist the help of a graphic designer, because we are going to unpack infographics.
What is an infographic? Well, it’s exactly what you might expect. It is a graphic interpretation of data or information. They encompass everything from a subway map to brightly colored PDFs that deliver a number of statistics in one visual theme.
They can be extremely creative and a great way to deliver a lot of data in one visually interesting package. And they can take nearly any form.
The trick to creating them is to, first, collect a good amount of compelling data. Then, identify a story you believe those data points tell. With that, you can either brief a graphic designer on what you are trying to create, or even try an online infographic-making software.
The concept seems to be pretty popular, too.. In 2021, infographics were the fifth most popular form of B2B content marketing in North America and the fourth most commonly produced content marketing worldwide in 2020, according to Statista. The message is clear, despite the design capability required to pull them off, infographics can be a great data visualization idea.
And if you really want to make an impact (and have the resources to build something beautiful), giving your infographics a bit of motion can greatly increase your storytelling capabilities. In 2018 for instance, the Washington Post followed female politicians seeking office in the United States. The project generated a huge amount of data, which was later assembled into a dynamic web-based experience. You can find the project here and see more of their work on their Twitter.
How do you visualize data creatively?
Innovative data visualization can come in many forms. Color is an easy and quick way to bring interest and focus to your graphics. Movement can make your visualization incredibly dynamic and impactful. We also know that choosing the right kind of graph can make a huge difference in effectively telling your data’s story. And, when you’re ready to take a step up, infographics provide a nearly unlimited amount of creative possibility.
Looking to dig in a bit more, then check out some interesting Google Data Studio templates that you can download and use for free.