Dashboard Development and Unleashing Creative Juices
Ryan Goodman of Centigon Solutions wrote up his take on a recent discussion on LinkedIn that centered on the tension between data visualization that is “flashy” versus data visualization that rigorously adheres to the teachings of Tufte and Few.
The third point in Goodman’s take is worth quoting almost in its entirety, as it is both spot-on and eloquent:
Everyone has a creative side, but someone who has never picked up a design book with an emphasis on data visualization should not implement dashboards for their own company and certainly not as a consultant. Dashboard development is not the forum to unleash creative juices when the intent is to monitor business performance. Working with clients who have educated themselves have[sic] definitely facilitated more productive engagements. Reading a book does not make you an expert, but it does allow for more constructive discussions and a smoother delivery of a dashboard.
“The book” of choice (in my mind, and, I suspect, in Goodman’s) is Few’s Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data (which I’ve written about before). Data visualization is one of those areas where spending just an hour or two understanding some best practices, and, more importantly, why those are best practices, can drive a permanent and positive change in behavior, both for analytical-types with little visual design aptitude and for visual design-types with little analytical background.
Goodman goes on in his post to be somewhat ambivalent about tool vendors’ responsibility and culpability when it comes to data visualization misfires. On the one hand, he feels like Few is overly harsh when it comes to criticizing vendors whose demos illustrate worst practice visualizations (I agree with Few on this one). But, he also acknowledges that vendors need to “put their best foot forward to prove that their technology can deliver adequate dashboard execution as well as marketing sizzle.” I agree there, too.