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Open Scholarship Commons Summer Series asynchronous workshop on data visualization

< Day 1, Part 1 Return to homepage Day 2, Part 1 >

Day 1, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2! This part is heavier on the videos, so feel free to settle in and follow along.

Gestalt principles

The Gestalt principles describe how humans perceive similar elements, find patterns, and fill in gaps when we see objects. These principles sit at the core of data visualization design work and impact design elements that we incorporate into visualizations.

Watch the TipTut overview video of Gestalt principles for beginners (17:20) to go through the specific principles and examples.

Sketching/planning a visualization/data storytelling

Telling data stories can be a powerful way of communicating key information to your audience. While numbers on a screen can be informative, a narrative around the numbers that tell the story of them can be impactful. Rep. Katie Porter demonstrates the power of storytelling (2:09) when questioning a pharmaceutical company’s CEO about their spending.

Before jumping to a data visualization tool, it is useful to first plan and sketch your visualization. It’s not enough to make a chart and share it out – visualizations can tell stories, and it’s important to understand the story you’re telling. Even if you don’t intend to tell a story, your visualization can reveal biases and presumptions.

When we start thinking about creating a visualization, we may not know the key pieces of our data and how we intend to represent it. Consider what question you’re trying to answer with your visualization, then grab some pens and paper (or a tablet and stylus!) and start sketching ideas.


Watch Karen Eber’s TEDx Talk, Why storytelling is more trustworthy than presenting data (13:55), for a more in depth explanation on why data storytelling is important.

On the other side of the coin, keep in mind that data stories can highlight and prioritize certain aspects of the data while hiding others. As Nathan Yau mentions in “How to Spot Visualization Lies,”:

“A chart doesn’t make something true. Data doesn’t make something true. It bends. It shows many things. So keep your eyes open.”

Day 1 readings

Whenever you’re ready, proceed to Day 2, Part 1 or return to the homepage.