How to develop your visual vocabulary

Most scientists aren’t trained as graphic designers, so it’s a huge challenge to translate data into a captivating graphic or image. The process is made more complex given the sheer variety of graphs and charts: bar graphs, countour maps, pie charts, oh my!

A new guide released by the Financial Times has provided a useful starting point. The Visual Vocabulary Guide is a starting point to transform your data into informative and meaningful data visualisations.

The guide separates the many different types of data into categories, based on the relationship between variables. Each category then lists suitable graphs or charts and the advantages of each.

For example, data that demonstrates a population distribution is best suited to histograms and dot plots. But if the data is demonstrating a change over time, heat maps and timelines may be best.

The guide provides a helpful focal point for those trying to navigate the wide world of data visualisation. But importantly, the key message of the work is paramount to choosing the correct visual. What data visual will best get across the key message of your work?

A snapshot of The Visual Vocabulary Guide is given below. The full guide can be downloaded as a poster or viewed as an interactive display.


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