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October 8, 2010 / Gina D.

Catching up on a novel graphic

No, Beyond Tetris has not abandoned you. But between processing all that was SND Denver with an extra helping of uberpost immediately thereafter… Beyond Tetris has decided to chill out, enjoy the Fall-ish weather (as Fall as SoCal gets in September, anyway), and curl up with a good book: The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics by Dona M. Wong — what else?

Best part about this book: It’s one giant infographic. It’s not a novel, driveling out rows and rows of dry information. Nope. Rather, it’s a sectioned how-to that teaches by example. Brilliant. (Here’s a sample.)

I was privileged enough to have breakfast with Ms. Wong, who was sitting with the Denver Post’s Damon Cain when I approached with my breakfast plate and asked to join them. So glad I did; such a fun conversation about the conference, about the business, about upcoming SND Denver activities. It wasn’t long before the conversation meandered into talking about the day’s offerings, Ms. Wong’s presentation among them.  And I still hadn’t connected the dots from Ms. Wong’s face to her name, or maybe just her name to her book — a purchase I’d pondered (and dismissed) every time it surfaced on my “You Might Also Like” list on Amazon.com.

But Ms. Wong won me over. Between jokes about recruiting for her session, I confessed I hadn’t originally intended to pick her talk on graphics over another focused on new media — but she changed my mind. As we wrapped up breakfast, she challenged me to recruit 10 other people to her session.

Turns out, that was completely unnecessary: the room was PACKED — way more people than chairs. Seconds into the presentation, it was easy to see why: Ms. Wong was incredibly witty and entertaining as she offered some very plain talk about how to create effective infographics.

QUICK TAKE-AWAYS

  • Effective graphics tell a story, revealing insights and empowering the reader. They are clear, credible, relevant, useful and engaging.
  • Vertical bars always start at zero.
  • No 3-D graphics — unless maybe you have information you can present on three axes.
  • Bar charts are no good. Instead, indicate change with two points and an arrow indicating the direction of change.
  • Color palettes should be clean and simple, and generally muted — but you MUST check the grayscale version every time since a significant percentage of the public is colorblind.
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