When you present with numbers a lot, the reflex instinct is to go straight for graph template #1 on the PowerPoint menu. Good old trusty column graph, a friend you’ve known since primary school.
And for that very reason, unless you’re using the graph to show your staff that they’re all getting a 50% pay rise, it’s going to be very dull and predictable for your audience.
What you need is some inspiration on how to bring numbers to life. So stop reading this blog, and spend some time considering the work of David McCandless on his Information is Beautiful site.
He’s a London ‘visual and data journalist’ with a passion for communicating complex data with a minimum of words.
His simpler material is beautiful in its clean design and clear emphasis on what’s important. Who doesn’t want to know where’s the best place to survive a plane crash?
(All the graphs are too big to reproduce well here, so click on the thumbnails to link through to the originals.)
He can make a graph look like an artwork, so you’re drawn into the data:
We’ve spoken before of using comparisons to make numbers realistic, particularly large ones. McCandless creates a definitive example here that makes sense of all the billion-trillion dollar headlines that swamp us every day. Who would have thought the world drug trade and the world advertising trade would have identical turnovers? Compare the projected versus actual budgets of the Iraq War and feel better about your next cost overrun on a work project.
And he can pull together a book’s worth of behavior analysis into one chart, like this Heirarchy of Digital Distractions. It’s a mine of accurate analysis, like the descending interest level of checking out new Twitter followers depending on hotness.
His work is a reminder that numbers can be fascinating, if you present them with imagination and passion.
And hours after looking at these visuals, I can still remember most of the facts they were designed to communicate. When was the last time you experienced that when you watched someone present numbers?