Learn more about DIY Design School our signature branding course. Lock in your visual branding for a fraction of the typical cost!

TRANSFORMING INFORMATION: Data Visualization Techniques That Grab Attention

We, the citizens of planet earth in the digital age, regularly scroll through landscapes of bite-sized content, thumbs trained for quick navigation and minds accustomed to information in 1:1 squares. But what happens when your story, your research, your year’s worth of impact and/or data, refuses to be condensed into a neat Instagram post? What if you have a LOT of text you need to share and you still want to make it approachable and easy to engage with?  This, friends, is where the true art of the report takes flight.

We’re done making bland, basic documents that no one will ever read. It’s time to share the best of your work and we WILL do it in an engaging way that grabs the attention of audiences that you care most about. And how? By using tools of design so the story of your impact is loud and clear–even if we are working with a large body of text. Ready? Lets goooo.

Here are a four big ideas to help you use design to make a lot of information easy to understand and engage with:

    1. Separate it into clear sections: This might feel counterintuitive but honestly… the more the merrier. When you break a lot of information down into smaller sections, it allows users to understand what is covered down at a subtopic level so the larger topic doesn’t feel so overwhelming. You’re sharing all of your major initiatives and wins for a year, for example. Some will want to learn the most about raw data… some will want the anecdotal stories. Make it easy for folx to engage with the parts that mean the most to them without having to hunt for it. Even if it ends up making the report longer, giving the option for audiences to easily jump around the report is the best user experience you can provide.
    1. Change up your font styles: Large, clear headings that a reader can easily skim as they scroll through your document makes it easy for them to gather a general overview which will entice them to read more. Bolding text within paragraphs and making large or highlighted pull quotes get the main ideas across quicker and ensures that even if someone moves quickly through your content, they will grab what’s most important. NOTE:  We’re talking about font STYLES here… which means using a different size, color or weight of the same font. This does NOT mean to use a different font at the top of each paragraph. (That doesn’t serve the same goal AND if you overdo it, can have a negative effect on engagement–making you and your content seem immature and unprofessional.)
    1. Use images or icons: Give the reader something else to look at other than words by adding images and icons that illuminate the meaning of the text. Icons are great to add a little visual flair without having to think too hard about shooting or finding the perfect photo. (There are also a lot of places to find free icons so it also doesn’t have to cost you anything.) If you do want a photo, know that images are also a key way to keep readers visually engaged and connected to your content. Just make sure to use those images or icons you add to show more of the meaning behind the words. Sharing a focus group’s findings? Include photos of communities that look like those who participated. Talking about kids and families who joined an initiative? Use a photo from the event to pull us into the experience.
    1. Don’t be afraid of color: No one wants to read your black text on a white background with nothing to break it up, so use colored backgrounds or fonts for section or heading titles to spice up the visual experience. Colors not only provide another visual cue of how the sections layout across the document but color is also interesting to look at and can imbue emotion–deepening the reader’s experience with the content. Use every chance you can to guide the user’s experience with the content, so don’t ignore color because it’s a powerful tool.

BONUS TIP: If possible, add a clickable table of contents at the beginning of the document. This allows readers to self-select where they start their journey with your content and pop directly down to the part they are most interested in. At the end of each section, don’t forget to add a ‘Back to Top’ link that lets them easily get back to the full table of contents.