Visual Display of Market Research Data

Clearly and Concisely Communicate Your Data Message

Rules of Thumb for Displaying Market Research Data
Market Research Data Display Should Clarify the Message. Getty Images | Monty Rakusen | Cultura

Information graphics or infographics, as they are popularly known, are nifty, concise ways of arranging complex information in ways that appeal to our eyes and our brains.

The human brain seeks and "likes" patterns. In the seminal book A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues provided the reader with approximately 250 patterns that they believed should be present in an environment for it to seem pleasing and feel comfortable.

Or as the authors put it, to feel "alive." Some of the design principles in the book are subjective and some are dated. But the lion's share of the patterns resonate with our senses and convey a sense of rightness.

Principles of design cross many disciplines. It is not as far a distance between architectural design and graphic design as one might think. Nor is the gap wide between architecture and the design structure of the visual display of data.

When a market researcher wants to create a visual display of data, one goal is to achieve that same sense of inherent rightness. And then, just to up the ante, the market researcher needs to put on an advertising hat. The visual display of data should have sufficient color pop, white space, and content appeal to be irresistibly attractive. If you know the work of Edward Tufte, you know this is possible. His work on PowerPoint presentations really says it all.

What Ever Happened to Tables?

Visual displays of data are useful in both qualitative market research and quantitative market research. Regardless of the source of market research data, the manner in which it is displayed can have a profound effect on how well the data is understood, interpreted, and put to use.

On her website Understanding Graphics - Design for the Human Mind, Connie Malamed gives dozens of tips for elevating the common data table by playing up the organizational and aesthetic attributes that can be coaxed out. Malamed also lists and explains the tasks that the eyes and the brain execute while attending to a data table. This is the sort of information that is as familiar to graphic designers as the back of their hand.

When your clients (or your boss) insist on data tables, Roger Attrill provides a good resource. He offers several examples of tables and their improved versions, so that viewers can get a feel for what a glitzy table looks like. At the same time, any of Attrill's tables could easily be converted to infographics. Whether that should happen is a question that can only be answered by asking who the audience for the data is, and what the impact of losing much of the cell-level detail would be.

Infographic Design Made Clear and Simple

Creating strong infographics seems simple to accomplish, but the simplicity of the end product is deceptive. Robust design talent is needed to create attention-getting intuitive infographics. Many companies specialize in infographic design.

Here are just a few and they have stunning examples of excellent infographics on their websites. As this video from points out, infographics (visualization is their word for it) is a combination of design, journalism, and analysis. This could be why The New York Times is one of the best users of infographics.

The New York Times brand of journalism is top of the line -- hand-in-hand with their journalism. Mix in some exemplary designers and you get great use of infographics. Not only are they good at what they do, but the collaborative folks at The New York Times have created a Visual Communications Lab where readers can use the many visual presentations made available by the Times editors to create their own infographics. All this is done in a collegial spirit and online interaction is encouraged.

The first Visual Communication Lab (VCL)interactive infographic was introduced in a blog. Why not try it out?

Co.Design Check out the excellent example from Airbnb.

TechNode This is DIY day with handy guidelines and online infographics tools. As they say: Story / Idea + Data + Design = Visualization.