The Art of Data Visualization Event: Key Messages


We are constantly bombarded with messages from billboards, social media, and even from within our nonprofits. There is so much information coming at us at all times. When working in a chaotic atmosphere such as a nonprofit, how do we create messages that stick? How do we create an impactful message that moves people from a lack of understanding to informed about issues we combat, and then make them move on it?

One way is through data visualization. YNPN Denver recently hosted a professional development event focused on data visualization with Dr. Annette Shtivelband and Lydia Hooper. If you missed out, here are some of the key points that were discussed.


What is data visualization?

Data visualization is presenting information through pictures and graphics which can:

  1. Promote understanding of the data
  2. Improve the collection processes
  3. Encourage accurate analysis
  4. Increase effectiveness of communication

Data visualization comes in many forms including infographics, pictures, charts, and diagrams. By utilizing visual representations of data, you can connect the message to your audience in a powerful way.


Where do you begin?

  1. Know your audience

Before you begin sharing data visually, you first need to know with whom you will be sharing this data. You wouldn’t share information in the same way with children as you would university professors, so be sure to answer “who is my audience,” “what do they care about,” and “why are you communicating with them”? Understanding who your message is for will help you tailor your message to the needs and interests of your audience.

  1. Identify what you want to share and why

What is it you want this audience to know? Why do they need to know it? There are several reasons to share information, whether it’s to inform your audience or engage them in your cause. One method to help you answer these questions is “stakeholder-centered design.” Through this design process, you identify the issue your organization is addressing, you describe how your organization addresses the issue, and you provide a shared vision for the future for you and your stakeholders with a call to action to engage them in addressing the issue. By going through this process, you ensure the information you share will be meaningful for your audience, and you provide your audience with a way to help.


Quick Tips and Best Practices

  • Have reliable data that you accurately represent- no comparing apples and oranges
  • Balance the emotional and rational needs of your audience
  • Don’t lean too heavily on your substance or style alone, good data visualization requires both
  • Use color wisely and remember those who are colorblind!
  • Only keep what is necessary, simplicity is key
  • Everyone understands things differently, so be sure to test market your graphics first to be sure your message is clear- even if it’s informal

What is your experience with data visualization? Please share your tips and best practices in the comments below!


  • Azzam, T., Evergreen, S., Germuth, A. A., & Kistler, S. J. (2013). Data visualization and evaluation. In T. Azzam & S. Evergreen (Eds.), Data visualization, part 1. New Directions for Evaluation, 139, 7–32.
  • Evergreen, S. D. H (2014). Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact. Sage Publications, Washington, D.C.
  • Steele, J., & Illiinsky, N. (2010). Beautiful visualization: Looking at data through the eyes of experts. O’Reilly: Cambridge.
  • Wong, D. M. (2010). The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don’ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY.

YNPN Denver would like to thank CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs for supporting our 2015 programming. Thank you!

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.


get updates