Josée Dupuis, PhD, Professor of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health
Wayne LaMorte, MD, PhD, MPH, Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health
"Modern data graphics can do much more than simply substitute for small statistical tables. At their best, graphics are instruments for reasoning about quantitative information. Often the most effective was to describe, explore, and summarize a set of numbers - even a very large set - is to look at pictures of those numbers. Furthermore, of all methods for analyzing and communicating statistical information, well-designed data graphics are usually the simplest and at the same time the most powerful."
Edward R. Tufte in the introduction to
"The Visual Display of Quantitative Information"
While graphical summaries of data can certainly be powerful ways of communicating results clearly and unambiguously in a way that facilitates our ability to think about the information, poorly designed graphical displays can be ambiguous, confusing, and downright misleading. The keys to excellence in graphical design and communication are much like the keys to good writing. Adhere to fundamental principles of style and communicate as logically, accurately, and clearly as possible. Excellence in writing is generally achieved by avoiding unnecessary words and paragraphs; it is efficient. In a similar fashion, excellence in graphical presentation is generally achieved by efficient designs that avoid unnecessary ink.
Excellence in graphical presentation depends on:
- Choosing the best medium for presenting the information
- Designing the components of the graph in a way that communicates the information as clearly and accurately as possible.