Effective Visualizations: What Point Do You Want to Convey?

Effective visualizations are critical to conveying information to diverse audiences to enable better decision making and communication. Information is being generated at an ever-accelerating pace which is allowing better analytics, but also more opportunity for confusion and feelings of being overwhelmed. New tools are enabling people to make visualizations from datasets quickly and easily, but without proper training, the visualizations can fall flat when it comes to being effective at communicating meaningful insights (Berinato 2016).

Similar to best practices in slideshow presentations, each graphic should try to communicate a specific point and be as simple as possible to avoid confusing messaging (Turabian 2018, 91). When focusing on the point trying to be made, it is important to first categorize whether the information being presented is conceptual or data driven. This question should be the first step in thinking about which visualizations to use because it will guide whether the goal of the information is to declare something or explore a concept (Berinato 2016). Another useful framing of data visualization Berinato makes is that data-driven declarative information is what managers and decision-makers are most accustomed to when looking at reports. However, data-driven exploration of interactive visualizations can help highlight what visualization will be best utilized for declarative information depending on the point to be made. By first focusing on whether the point that is to be made is conceptual or data-driven, an analyst can utilize exploratory methods to find the visualization that best showcases the insights to be communicated in a declarative data visualization. By starting with the questions around what outcome is wanted from the visualization, exploration can then lead to the best format for delivering that content.

Author: Logan Callen


Berinato, Scott. 2016. “Visualizations That Really Work: Know What Message You’re Trying To Communicate Before You Get Down In The Weeds.” Harvard Business Review (June 2016). Accessed February 24, 2021.

Turabian, Kate L. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. 9th. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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