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Stephen Few, a respected IT innovator, consultant, and educator has studied the art and science of visual presentation for many years. In a White Paper prepared for Cognos Corporation, he presents seven principles for the effective display of quantitative information. The first of these is presented below:
“When you wish to get your message across—any message—whether in conversation, in writing, or in a graph, irrelevant content is distracting. Don't make people wade through meaningless visual content in your display to find what really matters. It has become common today, even in business graphs, to include all sorts of nonsense, such as cute pictures in the background or the addition of a third dimension to bars, lines, and pies. Despite good intentions (if you consider attempts to entertain or impress good), visual content of this sort is something that people's eyes must scan and brains must process, without any payback, for it is meaningless.”
“Extraneous content not only wastes people's time, it makes it harder for them to get at the message.
The reverse is true as well. Don't design a display that doesn't contain everything people need to make sense of it. Include every piece of information that is part of your message—even notes to explain what might not be clear—otherwise you're communicating poorly. This principle is broken in many graphs today by adding a 3-D effect to bars, lines, data points, and pies.”
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|