Part two: Visualise your numbers

Jan 2020 · Design Strategy

The human brain is wired to understand visual communication. Data is a really good way to bring interest and surprise to your report, a chance to pull out pertinent information that supports your story. Illustrations, photos, colours, table styles are all part of your brand and should uplift your overall design concept. Infographics are a great way to make data visually interesting while drawing attention to the facts often helping to humanise the story you’re trying to tell.

Data visualisations have a long and interesting history, dating all the way back to the 18th Century where they have been used to motivate cultural change, highlight plights of racism and even identify disease. The African American activist and academic W.E.B Dubois in the 18th Century produced some hugely influential infographics to demonstrate the white supremacy issue. A particularly famous British infographic is the John Snow Cholera Map which was pioneering in healthcare and helped to identify the disease as being passed through water, saving thousands of lives.

You need to strike a balance between selecting data presentations that enable the reader to interpret the numbers as well as being visually interesting. Beautiful data visualisations can be true art-forms, however an annual report still needs to be clear for investors and shareholders. Whether it’s a map, a graph, a chart, ensure that you’re choosing the most effective data visualisation. Similarly your titles don’t need to be dry, engage your readers with an interesting copy to support your data. ‘Ready and able: A look at progress’ is a lot more engaging than ‘Sector growth’.

Data visualisations can be something that really brings life and interactivity with your report. Whether this is in the physical with paper dials, clever folds or pull outs. These often translate extremely well into digital encouraging user participation and data interrogation. Put simply; context, simplicity and design could revolutionise your report.

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