Getting the basics right

I’m surprised to discover it’s eight years now that I’ve been running workshops about drawing charts (amongst other things +).

The reason this was brought to mind today was JP Koning‘s graphic doing the rounds on Twitter (for the second, third, or fourth time I’m guessing):

I always recommend people go to The Economist to find examples of charting done well. So I was delighted to see this graphic that draws attention to some of the secrets of their simplicity.

  • Title draws observer in
  • Technical details in subtitle
  • Direct labelling
  • No clutter
  • Leave a signature

Mastering charts is a good place to start before progressing onto more sophisticated visual journalism and infographics: many of the principles are the same.

And the point JP Koning also makes in his introduction that there is no universal rule for chart making is another I heartily agree with. There are many decisions that go into a making a chart seemingly simple depending on context, audience and platform. This is something automated chart tools don’t understand, a challenge waiting to be tackled I would argue.