Driving from San Antonio to Austin after the Grants Managers Network (GMN) conference last week, I saw a sign on the highway that read, "Travel time to LP 1604, 16-18 minutes."
Without contect, that piece of information is meaningless. How far away is LP 1604? How long should it take to get to LP 1604? (And what is LP 1604? I figured that one out... LP 1604 is a highway loop (the LP stands for loop) that circles San Antonio.)
The problem of presenting information without context brought to mind Cole Nussbaumer's session at GMN entitled "Storytelling with Data: Visualizing Philanthropy." Cole is the People Analytics Manager at Google and the data guru who writes about analytics at Storytelling with Data. She addressed how grants managers can better use visuals to present information about grants, programs, outcomes, etc.
Cole provided compelling before and after images to demonstrate how some basic design principles can make grant information both more accessible and more meaningful:
Note how much easier it is to understand the story being told in the "after" image.
Here are 3 tips for presenting grant information:
- Simplify. If a specific piece of information isn't necessary to tell the story you want to tell, remove if from the chart or graph.
- Focus attention where you want it. You have many tools in your toolbelt to help focus attention - color, contrast, size, even text. In the "after" example above, the use of color and bold text makes it very clear where the viewer's attention should be focused.
- Help your viewers draw the conclusions you want them to draw. Don't assume all viewers will interpret the information the same way you do, or the way you intend them to. If you want to highlight a conclusion that is supported by the data you're presenting, use text to make that conclusion clear, and support it with the visuals.
For more tips about creating compelling visual representations of data, visit Cole's blog.
What are your favorite tips for presenting grant information?
Images from Cole Nussbaumer's blog at http://www.storytellingwithdata.com/2012/03/lessons-from-gmn.html