Data can tell a story. But rarely is that story apparent when you look at a spreadsheet. (See Tip #1.) You can bring the story into focus by visualizing the data. You can show change over time using a line graph. You can compare and contrast groups using a bar chart. You can juxtapose a part of a group and the whole group using a pie chart. And there are plenty of other examples. But once you have visualized, the story can still be hidden, particularly to those unfamiliar with the data. That’s when it’s time to call out data points with color and annotations. In the visualization below, each line is a city in Hennepin County in Minnesota. The slope of the lines shows changes in housing prices overtime. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, which created the visualization, draws our attention to the city of St. Louis Park and allows us to easily compare this city's housing prices to that of other cities before and after the housing bubble peak. The annotation also gives us specific data on St. Louis Park that would be difficult to glean from the graph alone. The interactive version of this graph allows you to highlight different cities and look at median housing cost, relative cost, and relative change in cost.
See other data tips in this series for more information on how to effectively visualize and make good use of your organization's data.