30 Jan 2012

“The purpose of visualisation is insight, not pictures”

Ben Shneiderman conducted fundamental research in the field of human–computer interaction and knows all about data visualisation. Data or information that is transformed into meaningful, visualised form (photographs, pictures, charts, maps and diagrams or timelines) is referred to as data or information visualisation.

The idea is to communicate in a more eloquent way the stories that exist within information and  increase the impact they have on the target audience. Examples include this infographic and the poster below.


Libraries engage with many stakeholders that have a variety of needs and expectations. They include, for example, patrons and suppliers. Initiatives that push for constructive change within a library and information service require backing and participation from all those parties. However, one particular audience is crucial (at all stages of the process) if one wants to succeed, and that is the party that provides the small change und ultimately decides whether initiatives take off in the first place. So certain information targeted at decision makers and key-stakeholders seek to advocate (influence), as well as inform (enlighten).

One should not confuse information design with graphic design. Information design is about making your data ‘clear’ (it makes complex information easier to understand), ‘compelling’ (visuals grab people’s attention) and ‘convincing’ (people who might not be persuaded by raw numbers or statistics may be more likely to understand and believe what they see in a chart or graphic).

Visualizing Information for Advocacy is a practical guide to Information Design. It provides you with start-to-end instructions in information design covering the following:
  • Planning your information design
  • Assessing your data
  • Sorting and sketching
  • Assessing your media
  • Designing your graphics
  • Clarifying your graphics
For example, a pertinent question to ask is what information to focus on and what to exclude. It is crucial to design for your audience (user-centred design), not for you. One should take care to avoid chart junk (i.e. any extras that detract from the point I want to get across) and instead focus on the details that matter to the audience.



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