Declutter Dataviz with Small Multiples


Are you making graphs that look like this crap? I won’t make you raise your hand. But let’s just agree not to do this, yeah? It’s SUPER hard to compare the tops of a bunch of bars. Two side by side bars per region ain’t so bad but beyond that and we are just being annoying. This is change over time, so a more appropriate graph type would be a line graph, like this: How’s this working for you? Personally, I can’t see a freakin thing. The values in the dataset are all so close together that this graph has

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The Easiest Way to Make Bullet Charts in Excel


There are lots of ways to make bullet charts, some easier than others, some better suited for specific visualization contexts. Hell, there are plug-ins you can purchase that make it a snap. Except when my plug-in broke and I had to remake about a bazillion bullet graphs in several dashboards. :/ doesn’t even begin to express it. So yeah, we could use yet another method. This is the easiest way I have found to do it right inside Excel. It comes from this book, which gets useful at the end. The backbone behind this version is an set of overlapping

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Guest Post – Charting Confidence Intervals


Hi there! I’m Angie Ficek and I’m a program evaluator at a small evaluation consulting firm called Professional Data Analysts, Inc. (PDA) in Minneapolis, MN. In a previous post, Stephanie wrote about adding standard deviations to a dataviz. I responded to her post with an example of how we add confidence intervals to our charts. I showed her an example of a chart from our past, before knowing anything about data viz, and our present, now that we’ve been “Evergreened.” She encouraged me to write a guest post about this, so here it goes. PDA evaluates several states’ tobacco cessation

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What the Hell is Wrong with the Projector & How to Fix It


Meet a hero. This is Kailen Brooks. A few months ago, I was giving a workshop on data visualization to about 40 people at the AEA Summer Institute when pretty much everything that could have gone wrong almost did. Someone’s spilled drink ran dangerously close to my computer. My mic suddenly gave birth to terrible feedback sounds. And the projector started wiggling the image, nearly causing epileptic seizures among my audience members. Kailen and his crew to the rescue. As I set up for the second day of workshops, Kailen came by again to run me through basic projector troubleshooting in

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Adding a Benchmark Line to a Graph


This simple line packs so much power. Adding a benchmark line to a graph gives loads of context for the viewer. Here’s how to make one right inside Excel. It’s so easy you might pass out. My data table looks like this: I have my data and I have the benchmark value listed next to each. Highlight the group names and their data and insert a simple bar graph:   Then right-click on the graph and click Select Data. In that box that pops up, click the Add button to add a new series. In *that* dialogue box, select your Benchmark data.

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Guest Post – Embracing Data Visualization in Evaluation: A Management Perspective

Friends! I’m so happy to have Rakesh Mohan guest blogging for me. He is one helluva guy. He is the Director of the Office of Performance Evaluations, an independent agency of the Idaho State Legislature. In other words, his eval clients are lawmakers. You ask me for examples of reporting in government – here you go! In addition to those huge tasks, Rakesh is running for president of  the American Evaluation Association (vote!) and his office received the Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Government Evaluation Award from AEA in 2011 because their evaluation work is that incredible. Read on for what Rakesh and

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An Incomplete List of Females in Data Visualization

I rewrote this post 4 times, in an effort to give it a calm and professional tone. And then I thought “Ah fuck it, this is my blog and I can say whatever I want.” I’m writing this post because I just listened to an interview about data visualization. It took place among 4 men who were positioned around the globe and lasted over an hour. In that time, I didn’t hear them mention even one woman. In the references they posted, only men were listed. This post is to point attention to the awesome women in data visualization, not

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How to Make Dumbbell Dot Plots in Excel


In case it wasn’t clear, I freakin love dot plots. They are amazingly easy to read, beautifully simple in their display. I was making these babies for some clients a little while ago, before and after dots for about 25 variables in one graph. And they said “Uh, hey yeah Stephanie? Could you, like, draw a tiny line between the pair of dots on each line?” >.< That was my face when I imagined painfully inserting 25 lines, perfectly aligned between the dot pairs. But I love challenges like this. Could I find a way to make Excel do this

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Labels are Used Sparingly


This post is about how to avoid inducing claustrophobia in your data visualizations. Too much text on a graph clutters it up, making readers feel suffocated. So let’s address the checklist item Labels are used sparingly. Sometimes, too much text isn’t the issue. Take a look at this scatterplot, produced with Excel’s default Insert Chart option. It uses data from Radical Math and plots the percent of people of color living in each NYC area against the number of military recruits per 100,000 in those same areas. This version would score zero points because there is no intentional use of

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How to Rock the Text in your Data Visualization


Very recently, Ann Emery and I released the Data Visualization Checklist. It’s thorough and its going to help your data visualization kick some serious ass. In these subsequent posts on each of our blogs, Ann and I will illustrate some of the checklist items to show how a graph can progress from 0 to 2 points. Today we tackle a graph’s title, subtitle, and annotation, the first two items on the checklist. These babies are a big deal, folks. Why? Because data visualizations typically don’t get all that much text. It’s supposed to be a visual, after all. Which means there’s

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In Print!

My book is out! My book is out!

Presenting Data Effectively

Published by Sage, October 2013

I coedited something!

New Directions for Evaluation

Data Visualization Part 1

Released September 20

Out now!

New Directions for Evaluation

Data Visualization Part 2

Released December 21, 2013

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