Brainstorming creative and useful ways to display data and results can be a challenge. A recent discussion on the LinkedIn page of the American Evaluation Association has turned my attention to a useful tool called the “Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, which can be used to aid and/or inspire this creative process. The table, as suggested by the name, is designed to mirror the periodic table of the elements, but instead of describing the many basic elements and their components, this table is based on the many ways to visually display common evaluation information.
Though the table itself is quite detailed and may look daunting at first glance, you can easily begin to explore its usefulness through its interactive features. Please click on the link and I can further explain this tool: http://www.visual-literacy.org/periodic_table/periodic_table.html.
Once you have activated the link, take a moment and hold your cursor over one of the “elements.” A little graphic should pop-up that will give you an example of that particular visualization method. Each element has its own unique example. Though these are just examples, one can begin to imagine their own information in such displays.
Along with the great examples of each visualization type, the table provides various color coding and symbols to highlight what each type of visualization communicates. For example, yellow indicates a visual display of data while blue-green indicates a visualization of a concept. The two-letter acronyms are described within each box; the symbols used within the boxes are described in the key. Again, hold your cursor over the box for information.
For a more detailed explanation of the development and rationale behind the table, follow this link: http://ow.ly/wk7d
One of the challenges presented by this table is the actual creation of these displays. Though the displays are very visually appealing and often complex, the appeal and complexity demands software that can do such. However, this table does provide some useful guidance and inspiration for how to grab readers’ attention and communicate complex information effectively. What visualization methods stand out the most for you? Which do you think are most appealing? Any personal favorites?