The ability to communicate visually is an advantage in most workplaces, especially for managers who have to convey abstract ideas and performance metrics to an audience.
Since data is such a driving force behind decision making, it is often much more effective to communicate visually, through charts and graphs, to deliver a more compelling message.
If you want to connect with your audience more effectively, a good place to start is understanding which visuals best suits your data, then determine if other graphic and style elements are necessary to support your message.
- Should I use a bar chart or a pie chart?
- What colors should I use, and how many?
- Are all the labels on the graph really necessary?
What is Data Visualization?
Data visualization is the graphic representation of data. It's an efficient way of communicating information, particularly when that information is numerous. Visuals such as charts, graphs, maps, and bars help to communicate a story about data so that stakeholders can clearly and easily consume and understand patterns of information in an efficient manner.
Businesses face an ever-increasing flow of data and are challenged with gaining insight from enormous data lakes. When data is translated into insights that the company can use to understand its business processes, make informed decisions, and pivot their business strategy confidently.
Effective visualization helps make complex data more accessible, understandable, and useable.
How the VARK Model aids in Visual Communication
According to educational theorist, Neil Fleming, there are four main types of learners. He created the VARK model, which is an acronym for the four main ways we learn best.
Visual learning is one of the top ways people learn. Flemming further identifies four ways to connect with visual learners.
- Use charts, graphs, and diagrams to organize data
- Draw the information you are trying to memorize
- Use symbols or initials instead of words and numbers
- Use colors to highlight different areas in your data
Visuals breakdown complex information into manageable pieces so that they are easier to absorb. This can also aid in understanding the ‘big picture.’ For instance, if a finance team is conducting enterprise planning, they can leverage visualization to tell the real story behind finance data, enabling businesses to:
- Understand their top and bottom-line performance
- Forecast future outcomes
- Identify key trends
- Lead strategic decision-making
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University. Dr. Gardner’s theory identifies eight different types of intelligences:
- Linguistic intelligence (words)
- Logical-mathematical intelligence (numbers/reasoning)
- Spatial intelligence (visuals)
- Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (movement)
- Musical intelligence (music)
- Interpersonal intelligence (people)
- Intrapersonal intelligence (self)
- Naturalist intelligence (nature)
While there is a cultural focus on linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligence, a large percentage of people use spatial intelligence in their everyday lives. A large percentage of people learn information best by seeing visuals such as pictures, maps, charts, graphs, or videos.
People with this learning style are much better at processing information when they can see an object, make plans in a spatial sense, sketch their ideas, or organize groups of information using different colors.
Visual Communication in the Workplace
Visual communication is key to conveying complicated information. Imagine you have a presentation and you need to explain a complex system and the need for a new business workflow. There are a few different ways you could convey your message.
- Visually — Show a graphic, chart, or graph that illustrates the complex system and workflow
- Aurally — Play a song or jingle that demonstrates your message
- Linguistically — Email your findings and have your colleagues read it
- Logically — Present a mathematical-style formula that explains your findings
- Kinesthetic — Show how your proposed changes work in the natural world
But what about a combination of a few modalities?
Multimodality learning is very common as most people are a mixture of VARK modes. People can also switch between different styles of learning depending on the situation.
3 Ways Visual Communication can Benefit Your Business
From boardroom meetings to sales projections, visual aids go a long way to educating your staff. Presentations that are rich with images, charts, and graphs, rather than data are a great way to keep your audience engaged and relay complex information.
Data visualization enhances plain data, taking numbers in rows and columns on a spreadsheet to easy-to-understand images.
Here are just three ways visual communication can benefit your business:
Helps your audience learn more effectively — People who are visual learners can process and retain information much faster and with more reliability. This will allow them to understand the issue sooner and think more critically about it.
Allows your audience to look at a problem in a new way — When trying to convey complex information, a visual will often help your audience to grasp the concept much quicker than words and text. This way you can ensure a high level of comprehension so you can get immediate feedback.
Increase your audiences’ memory of important information — People are far more likely to remember visuals rather than numbers and words. By showing visuals, you will help increase their understanding and memory of important details.
What to Look for When Considering a Data Visualization Tool
More than anything, you want to ensure that the tool you utilize is an all-in-one solution that can connect all of your information and help you turn convert complex data into easy-to-understand visuals. We cover everything you need to know about all-in-one solutions in The Ultimate Guide to Enterprise Analytics.
Looking to understand how data visualization and enterprise planning