Scratch-Off Graphs

Scratch-Off Graphs

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email asking me for ideas about ways to make evaluation findings more exciting and interesting. I know, some of you are thinking, “aren’t they always exciting and interesting???” but alas it isn’t the case. This idea wasn’t appropriate for the emailer’s particular situation, though it might be right for yours: scratch-off graphs.

First, make the graph as normal, using what you know about best practices in graph design. Note that I added a subheading that directs the recipient on how to interact with the graph. Hint: the thicker the paper, the better. Think cardstock or postcard stiffness. Another hint: the shinier the paper, the better. The paper I used was regular printer paper, so I first put a piece of clear packing tape over the labels to give it a slick surface.

Then I painted over the bar labels & clear packing tape using a scratch-off paint mix. To make scratch-off paint, mix 1 part dish soap to 2 parts acrylic paint. Hint: the darker the paint color, the better.


Even with dark paint it’ll likely take 2 coats to cover the labels completely. You’ll need drying time between coats, so plan to revisit this project over a couple of days.

Once the paint is dry, it will scratch off with a coin.


Imagine mailing these on postcards to your evaluation stakeholders. Both the snail mail and the scratch off make this delivery of evaluation findings intriguing and memorable. You could even spread the cards around on the boardroom table during your dissemination meeting. The point is to generate some mystery and curiosity about what lies beneath the paint and then give the stakeholders the agency to discover the answer.


Interested in learning more about great graph design? Check out my upcoming webinar on Smart Data Visualization.

8 thoughts on “Scratch-Off Graphs
  1. Chris Lysy says:

    Awesome, I love this idea Stephanie.

  2. Jane Davidson says:

    LOL, this is so cool!!! 🙂 Keep those awesome ideas coming, Stephanie!

  3. Sheila B. Robinson says:

    I love it! How do you think of these things? One of my evaluation students once suggested interpretive dance when we talked about creative ways to deliver evaluation results, but he was kidding. Your idea is actually feasible! I’m running to the basement this minute to dust off the old arts & crafts bin…

  4. Kate Tinworth says:

    This is so rad Stephanie. I love it. I have done something similar for presentations of findings with both ahead-of-time and real-time voting before “the big reveal”. It can be super effective to get people engaged in the data this way.

  5. Lyn Gordon says:

    This is great, Stephanie, but I think you need to take it to the next level: Scratch and sniff labels! The best results can have the most pleasing aromas, and the worst…(well, maybe this isn’t such a great extension of your idea).

  6. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss) says:

    What a fun way to engage people instead of boring them! I love this tip.

    It’s given me another idea, too: If you’re short of time (or craft supplies!), I suppose you could just put stickers over parts of your results. (Some cut-up printer labels would do the trick, or for bonus credit, using coloured dots, stars, or kids’ stickers would be much more fun than white boxy ones.) Just check that they stay attached, but without binding to the paper!

    And even when you use “boring-old PPT”, there’s a lot to be said for showing content in a similar tantalising way.

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