M. Genevieve Hitchings
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About Graphs & Charts

How content, especially complex content, is displayed visually impacts how likely we are to make an effort to understand what we are looking at. This post, written for my Information Design students at City Tech, explores the potential for using charts and graphs to effectively tell compelling stories.

There are a number of well-established models that are important to understand when visualizing information. These models have evolved over time and are meant to help organize and structure quantitative information through graphic representation in ways that make concepts easier to understand.


Convey a Single Data Point

There is no one single way to visually describe any given problem. The goal is to find a good one. As an example, the images above show three different representations of the same information.


Categorical Data

The pink charts are good for comparing different quantities of data. If you have categorical data (distinct data) that you need to compare, these charts display how they match up side by side. The Bubble Cloud Chart and the Stacked Bar Chart are examples of charts that show multiple data points. For example in the Stacked Bar Chart, each bar represents a whole, and segments in the bar represent different parts or categories of that whole.


Showing Transformations Over Time or Via Location

The charts in blue are used for showing and comparing data that is continuous. Line charts display this type of information nicely and can also highlight transformations over time or pin point differences between locations.


Arranging Content by Groupings, Rankings, or Process

The orange charts are just a few examples of the many different ways information can be organized and categorized to help make if more accessible to viewers. These charts help to establish visual hierarchy so that the eye can more efficiently scan and make sense of content heavy data through structure, groupings, and connections.