Communication Matters

4 Keys to Clear Data Visualization – and 4 Mistakes Financial Firms Make

9/14/2017

4 Keys to Clear Data Visualization – and 4 Mistakes Financial Firms Make

Charts and graphs are vital to financial communications. But graphic design isn’t a skill everyone has in their back pocket. Never fear – a good graphics process can help you create more successful visualizations, regardless of the skills you have on hand.

1. Know where your data is coming from. Defining inputs is a critical step in any effective process. Take an inventory of everyone in your firm who gathers, generates, uses, or distributes data. Build bridges with that network before you have a critical need.

2. Know who has the skills you need. A number of skills go into creating good graphics. You need experts in:

  • Subject matter – to specify the point of the graphic element
  • Data systems – to find and package the data you need
  • Design – to create a visualization where the meaning is clear
  • Visual Review – to ensure your graphics convey the right insight

One person rarely has all these skills, and many companies find they need support from a design consultant or outside proofers.

3. Know your routine. Don’t wait until you’re under deadline to figure out how to, for example, pull data from a needed source, or debate bar charts vs line charts. Document the steps involved in your graphics creation process. Track them regularly to identify trouble spots – and resolve them before the next deadline.

4. Know that quality control matters. Data errors are far more visible in graphics. Poor ideas muddy your message instead of making it clearer. Without the right data, the right skills, and the right routine, graphics can create more risk than value.

Insights from our Design Partner

We partner with Bull Marketing, a design company that shares our focus on asset management. Here’s their list of the biggest missteps investment firms make in creating graphics.

1. Hiring the wrong designer. For investment visualizations, experience with technical data and precise, demanding regulations is an absolute necessity.

2. DIY resizing. When non-designers create charts or tables, they often resize or rescale, which can badly misrepresent the data.

3. Borrowing “as is.” Borrowing charts from Bloomberg, Morningstar, or other pre-fab sources seems like a shortcut – but it beats up your brand. Your insights should come from your firm and follow your stylesheet.

4. Graphics for the sake of graphics. Make graphic elements mean something. A message that’s unclear, unimportant, or poorly integrated with surrounding text can convey that your firm lacks clear or valuable insight.

Purcell Communications can help you develop a process or find the resources you need to create accurate and insightful visuals – and we have the skills to evaluate their effectiveness in your communication products.

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