Show Me the Numbers: Table and Graph Design

No information is more important to most organizations than quantitative information—numbers that measure performance, identify opportunities, and predict the future. Most quantitative information is presented in tables and graphs. Unfortunately, most tables and graphs produced in organizations today are poorly designed—often to the point of misinformation. Why? Because almost no one who produces them, including specialists such as financial analysts and business intelligence professionals, have been trained in effective table and graph design. You can become an exception to this norm.

The ability to present quantitative information effectively is not intuitive; it requires visual communication skills that must be learned. Based on the book Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten by Stephen Few, this course provides an in-depth introduction to the best practices of quantitative data presentation.

This course alleviates countless hours of confusion and frustration. Following Stephen Few's clear precepts, communicated through examples of what works, what doesn't, and explanations of why, you will learn to design tables and graphs that present data clearly and drive your message home. This two-day version of the course differs from the previous one-day version in part by including more content (for example, more information about table design), but mostly by adding many more group exercises and extended discussions to drive the principles home and build a firmer foundation for the development of expertise. You will leave this course having developed table and graph design skills that will stick with you and add immediate value to your work.

You will learn to:

  • Match your message to the right type of display
  • Design tables and graphs to communicate information simply, clearly, and accurately

This course covers:

  1. The current state and challenges of quantitative data presentation
  2. Introduction to table and graph design
    • Fundamental challenges of data presentation
    • Key characteristics of quantitative information
    • Differing characteristics and uses of tables and graphs
    • Eight common quantitative relationships featured in graphs
    • Steps in the visual design process
  3. Table design
  4. Graph design
    • Visual objects used to encode values in graphs, and the best uses of each
    • Matching the right visual encoding objects to the eight fundamental quantitative relationships in graphs
    • Graph design at the component level

If you're trying to convince someone (such as your boss) that it's worth your while to attend this course, the article "Rare Business Assets: Tables and Graphs that Communicate" might be useful.

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