Design Principles

Data Visualization Tips

Designing Data Visualizations

  • Data Visualization Principles: Lessons from Tufte by Mike Pantoliano
  • Principles of Information Display for Visualization Practitioners
    • Edward Tufte has written a number of classic books on data visualization and his work is still refered to today. This page from NASA provides a quick overview of his main ideas, which are still relevant and can inform your data visualizations designs.
  • Data to ink ratio
    • One of Tufte's ideas is data-to-ink ratio, generally stating that when creating a visualization, you should try to maximize the amount of "ink" (physical or digital) used to represent the data, and minimize the amount used to represent everything else not important to understanding. Tufte is a strong advocate of clean, minimal design. This can be a good rule of thumb; however, this InfoViz wiki page provides a bit more discussion around this idea.
  • Small Multiples 
    • Another of Tufte's ideas is small mutliples, where you create a series of smaller graphs to compare similar variables across different categories. It’s a data dense way of allowing your audience to quickly see broad trends
  • Planning and Designing Effective Data Visualizations 
    • Noah Iliinsky presented a 3 hour workshop on designing data visualizations to the European Bioinformatics Institute. Here are notes on the workshop by Francis Rowland, which include links to the slides and notes.
  • The Architecture of a Data Visualization by Giorgia Lupi
    • If you want to go beyond using a particular template/form of a visualization, but instead want to start designing your own custom visualizations, this article is a great place to start.
  • Visualizations That Really Work by Scott Berinato (Harvard Business Review)
    • A discussion on visual communication, considering the nature and purpose of your visualization, to make your visualizations more effective
  • Learn Data Viz - Reading by UNC Libraries's Lorin Bruckner
    • A fantastic guide on data visualization, including this page of recommended books and articles to learn more

General Design Principles

For even more information on data visualization design, check out the Books, Blogs, and More page.