AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

CAT | Data Visualization and Reporting

Hi, I’m Elissa Schloesser founder and principal graphic designer at Visual Voice. I specialize in helping organizations visually communicate complex information, concepts and ideas—including evaluation methods, theories and findings.

Rad Resource: Data Stories is a podcast that covers topics on data visualization. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the field. A recent episode, titled Disinformation Visualization explores the “darker side” of data visualization.

I found this discussion particularly thought provoking and relevant to anyone communicating data. It challenges you to think critically about the data visualizations you create and consume.

Hot Tip: Can you spot a misinformed chart? Below is an example of two charts created from the same dataset.

Schloesser

This example is a little extreme, but I included it to show how data could be manipulated in visualizations.

Both are technically correct, but they strive to tell a different story based on how the data is represented.

Hot Tip: Spot misinformed data visualizations by considering these three things:

  • CONTENT: How was the data was gathered?
    • Before the data is even visualized consider how it was collected.
  • STRUCTURE: How was the data structured or sampled?
    • Does the visualization only represent certain years or a particular age group?
  • PRESENTATION: How was the data presented?
    • Does iconography, colors, annotations, etc. used influence your perception of the data?

Lessons Learned: Think of data visualizations as “visual arguments” rather than “visual evidence”.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello! I’m Sheila B. Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. It’s Independence Day in the US, the anniversary of the day our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed in 1776. As I thought about what topic to tackle for this week’s post, I wondered what insights a word cloud created from the text of the Declaration of Independence might yield. Since I’m familiar with two word cloud generators, I tried each of them.

Here is what I created in Worldle:

Dec of Ind wordle

And here is what I created in Tagxedo:

Dec of Ind Tagxedo

Both generators allow for some creativity with regard to color, and font. Wordle allows you to choose directionality – whether you want all text horizontal, all vertical, or some mix of the two. Tagxedo is best known for its shapes, allowing you to choose from a bank of available shapes that can help you illustrate a point. Tagxedo can also use custom fonts from popular font sites.

Lesson Learned: Word clouds can be fun and have a number of appropriate applications. Use them with caution, however, as they never substitute for analysis, and can potentially detract from important themes. Stuart Henderson and Eden Segal tackle word clouds in a chapter on qualitative data visualization in a recent issue of New Directions for Evaluation.  “Word clouds create a dramatic visual, which likely accounts for their popularity,” the authors posit. “Despite concerns with word clouds, their ease of creation and striking visuals make them a useful tool for evaluators if they are used sparingly and their challenges are acknowledged” (p. 57-58). 

Hot Tip: Henderson and Segal also mention another word cloud generator, TagCrowd, and I decided to give that one a try as well. Here is the result:

Dec ind TagCrowd

While TagCrowd has fewer opportunities for creativity, it does give the user the option to see word counts after each word. I simply checked this option as I created this one.

Rad Resources: A few other aea365 authors – Susan Kistler, Stacy Carruth, Sue Griffey, Jaquelyn Christensen, and Sarajoy Pond – have also shared their perspectives on word cloud generators.

Did you know there is an advanced version of wordle? Learn about this and other Wordle tips, such as how to keep word phrases intact, and how to get numbers to show in Wordle here!

Read the entire article Visualizing qualitative data in evaluation research, by Stuart Henderson and Eden Segal, to understand more about qualitative data visualization.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello! I’m Kate Tinworth, Program Co-Chair of the DVRTIG. I am excited to write about one of my favorite parts of my work as an evaluator— drawing.

Last year at AEA I co-presented a session called, “Drawing Them In: Graphic Facilitation & Evaluation to Strategically Visualize Change” with my friend Chris Chopyak (a rock star who literally wrote the book on using visuals to help businesses address challenges and create strategies). We reminded our audience that we all think visually, images are key to memory and learning, and that you—yes, you—can draw. And you should! Visuals can resolve ambiguity, cut across language and cultural divides, help findings become more salient, and kick start action.

Hot Tip: Find a Local Friend.

If you want to explore the potential of teaming with a graphic facilitator, it’s time to make some new friends. Check out the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP): http://ifvpcommunity.ning.com/. There’s bound to be someone near you!

Rad Resource: Go to a Class/Workshop.

There are great opportunities to try your hand at graphic facilitation, whether you plan to incorporate it into your evaluation practice or just want to stimulate your visual thinking. Though it can feel intimidating, I highly recommend signing up for a class. Learning graphic facilitation techniques have helped me to sketch out graph and chart ideas, think through report layouts, and get far more creative with methodology and instrumentation.

Cool Trick: Drink.

Some graphic facilitation practitioners, including Chris, do “drink and draws” where you can get some drawing practice over a cocktail. Amazing!

Hot Tip: Draw. All the Time.

To become more comfortable with drawing I draw, all the time. Try covering your dining room/kitchen table with butcher paper and put crayons or colored pencils out. When you sit down for coffee or a meal, draw. Tape paper to the wall and “live capture” TED talks or your favorite podcasts. Carry a notebook and favorite pen everywhere. Commit to drawing for just 2 minutes a day.

Tinworth 1

Cool Trick: Apps.

More of a techie? Draw on your tablet! I like Notability and iMotion.

Rad Resource: Get Inspired.

The DVRTIG is a great place to find inspiration and make connect with colleagues who care about visual thinking. Check out the AEA365 blog posts, the TIG website, and resources on p2i.

Hot Tip: Go Visual.

Whenever you can, try to “go visual” in your projects. Try a visual logic model. Engage stakeholders in drawing. I often get my stakeholders to draw during a training or as I present preliminary data. Lately I have also been experimenting with data placemats, which I learned about through AEA (thanks @VeenaPankaj).

Tinworth 2

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Angie Ficek and I am a Program Evaluator at Professional Data Analysts, Inc. (PDA), a small firm in Minneapolis, MN that specializes in public health evaluation. It wasn’t too long ago that I was reviewing a co-worker’s report and came across a bunch of tables of descriptive statistics like the one below. I couldn’t help but think, “There has got to be a better way to visualize these!”

Ficek 4

Then I remembered learning about dot plots from Ann Emery (for a quick 5 minute tutorial on how to create them, click here) and reading a blog post from Stephanie Evergreen on dumbbell plots. I applied the same concepts and came up with this:

Ficek 5

It’s similar to a box or stock plot, but is actually created with an Excel scatterplot. In this example, I had three x-values (for the min, mean, and max), so I inserted three y-values which tell Excel where the data points should fall on the invisible y-axis.

Ficek 6

As for the oh-so-important formatting of the data points, I added a marker for the mean and a light gray line to signify the range. I added the automated data labels above each data point and formatted the font size and color so that the means stood out more than the min and max since they were the most important value. Then I manually added text boxes to label the min, mean, and max along the top, and the program names along the left side.

I was really excited to find a simple, visual way for our client to see the pattern of these descriptive statistics a little more quickly. I cannot wait until I get to chart some descriptive statistics again! Said no one ever – until now.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Angie Ficek and I am a Program Evaluator at Professional Data Analysts, Inc. (PDA), a small firm in Minneapolis, MN that specializes in public health evaluation. Every once in a while I include timelines in my reports and/or presentations. I know there are many tools out there to create timelines, including Office Timeline and Timeline Maker, but recently I have been using a standard line chart in Excel. Say what?! Yes, I know, it’s crazy! But look at this lovely timeline!

Ficek 1

So how do you do it? Like I said, you will want to use a line chart in Excel. For this example, here is what my datasheet looks like:

Ficek 2

The first two columns are the year and month, and then I have a column for each timeline event – Intake data, Follow-up data, and Reports. Since I want these three events to appear in that order, from top to bottom, I typed in a 3 for each month for which there is Intake data available. I did the same for the Follow-up data with the number 2. And then for the Reports, since these happen at one point in time versus being continuous, I typed a 1 in the month in which a report is submitted, but left the cells in between blank. The exact numbers that you use aren’t as important as having equal spacing and the right amount of spacing between the events. For example, 2.5, 1.5 and .5 would have worked just fine too, but 3, 1.5, and 1 would have resulted in uneven spacing between events, which can be distracting to your audience and personally makes me twitch.

Ok, so our data is set up, and our chart looks something like this:

Ficek 3

Not quite to the final product, but you’re close. From here we delete the vertical axis (and adjust the axis range if needed), the gridlines, and the legend, then reformat each data series. Change the marker type for the Reports to a sunburst, or circle, and adjust the color. Get rid of the markers for the Intake data and Follow-up data series and adjust the line color and width. Then, one at a time, select the first and last data points of these two series to add a sunburst, or circle, to the start and end of them. The final step is to label each event as needed with a text box.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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Hi! We are Sara Vaca, independent consultant (EvalQuality.com) and Creative Advisor of this blog and Joseph Barnes (Senior Partner at ImpactReady). Today we are going to talk about the work ImpactReady is sponsoring to develop new ideas for using creativity and Dataviz to celebrate the International Year of Evaluation.

Like many evaluators, we have been really inspired by the energy and events that have circulated around EvalYear, and we wanted to find a way to make our contribution to coming-together. After exploring several opportunities, we decided to combine our love of sharing the things we have learnt about practicing evaluation with exploring the exciting new frontier of visualization.

Increasing access to broadband and awareness of how important user experience (UX) is to utilization means that there is a growing interest in Data Visualisation (Dataviz) in the evaluation community. But few of us are yet practicing it as much as we would like to. To help things along, we are attempting to create one new example of evaluation visualization each month throughout EvalYear.

With each of these products, we are seeking to achieve three aims:

To promote the dialogue within the evaluation community;

To foster deeper knowledge of evaluation theories; and

To have fun learning.

Rad Resources: Our first releases include:

  • Evaluation Metromap: Joseph put together this ‘underground map’ of evaluation where each line gathers the most representative of various evaluation aspects such as theories, approaches, techniques, actors, paradigms, etc.
  • What type of evaluator are you? Test: we created this non-scientific multiple-choice test to help evaluators discover if they embrace the paradigm they think they do. We invite you to try it (and help us improve it)!
  • What is good (and bad) evaluation (infographic): after having done many meta-evaluations, we have seen many common mistakes – including in our own work. We created this infographics as a way to provoke ourselves, and our fellow evaluators, to be as clear as possible about what we think ‘good’ really looks like.
  • Ethical issues in evaluation: Ethics is often a forgotten element in evaluation. We wanted to highlight typical controversial moments in evaluation to acknowledge them.

VacaBarnes

Rad Resources: You are welcome to visit the full project at EvalYear.com, and we have more releases coming soon. Here is a sneak peak:

  • A decision tree for helping with the Evaluation design
  • A motion picture explaining what evaluation really is.
  • A Gender dashboard
  • An evaluation coffee table e-book
  • And others!

Keep tuned to know more, and as usual, feel free to comment and contribute with your thoughts to help us learn more!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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Hi! I’m Mandi Singleton, Research Assistant at Carson Research Consulting (CRC) in Baltimore, Maryland. Last October I attended Eval 2014 and gave a poster presentation on the process, results and implications of translating data findings into an infographic. My main focus when designing the poster was graphical content. I wanted to impress upon viewers the impact that data visualization can have on audience perception, recall and retention of information. My overall goal was to encourage people to think about the benefits of translating findings into an infographic.

Hot Tips: Below are the steps I took to design my poster:

Singleton 1

Step 1: Identify the basics.

Determine the purpose, audience and key message of your poster. These things will help inform the content of your poster.

Step 2: Determine content.

All content should be supportive of your key message and catered to your audiences’ level of knowledge. Be mindful of terminology, acronyms and icons used in your poster.

Singleton 2

Step 3: Sketch your design.

I sketched the layout for my poster using pencil and paper, but you can use whatever medium you like. The goal here is to get an idea of how you want your poster to look.

Singletn 3

Hot Tip: Sketch your design on a paper that is the same size your poster will be. This helps with spacing and determining the placement of content.

Step 5: Create!

My poster was created using Microsoft Publisher 2013.

Insert your content. Most of my visuals were directly inserted into Publisher as image files. You can also create charts/data visuals in another program (like Excel) and paste them straight into Publisher.

Guide viewer’s eyes by creating visual paths of interest. This can be achieved through the use of color, varied font types and strategically placed shapes.

Singleton 4

Determine the color scheme. My posters color scheme was orange, gray, burgundy and blue. Orange and gray were chosen because they’re our company colors; burgundy and blue were selected because they looked nice with our company colors.

Singleton 5

Hot Tip: You can apply color schemes in Publisher; create your own or select a pre-made one.

Rad Resource(s): For help selecting a color scheme, visit Adobe Kuler (provides RGB & HEX codes) or HailPixel (provides HEX codes).

Step 6: Prepare poster for printing.

Before printing, check for things like spelling errors, objects in non-printable regions and poor image resolution.

Hot Tip: If you’re using Publisher you can run ‘Design Checker’ (found on the home tab) to find problems in your poster for you.

Do you have any other tips for creating a poster presentation? Share by leaving a comment below!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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Hi! I’m Dave Shellard, the program evaluation manager at a professional association based in Washington, DC and Data Visualization and Reporting TIG (DVR TIG) Program Chair. As a founding member of the DVR TIG I’ve been a long advocate of incorporating meaningful and intentional data viz into communicating evaluation results.

Like many of us, I’m faced with tight resources for data visualization tools and I’ve found the older posts on this blog on free or low cost tools helpful. However, I often hit a snag for data analysis and viz tools – my data would land in the public domain as part of the agreement to use the free version and in some cases that can be beneficial. However, depending on the sensitivity of my data it is not always acceptable. I have had to scale back my expectations and look to build something myself in Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint.

Rad Resource: Using the Juice Analytics Chart Chooser I can filter through the free tool for ideas and download a template in Excel or PowerPoint. Most importantly I can keep my data off of a third party server. Their templates also put our data first and fancy design second, helping me tell my story.

Shellard

Rad Resource: I used the Speedometer Graph in Excel template to explore an idea for a project. My idea didn’t pan out but it was not due to my data needing to be uploaded to a third party server for presentation.

Rad Resource: A recently used the Map of the United States Google Document template to create a very basic heat map. I was in a pinch and this template worked perfectly to help illustrate my story. I did not have to upload any data and the document was stored in my Google Drive where I control the privacy settings.

Lesson Learned: Not every free template is created equal and some may lead you to a visualization that confuses your story may not score very high on the Data Visualization Checklist. With a little knowledge of Excel or PowerPoint you can convert any of these templates to match your style.

Have a free downloadable template that you like? Leave a link in the comments.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings! My name is Sarah Mason and I am a Ph.D. student in the Evaluation & Applied Research Methods program at Claremont Graduate University. My research focuses on the effectiveness of data visualization techniques, and my goal is to make sure that the communication strategies evaluators use have as much empirical support as the programs we evaluate.

Last year a bunch of us got together at AEA to talk about our research and experience with data visualization (AEA 2014 session #DVR2). Here’s a summary of what we found.

  • Lesson learned: We need more empirical data on the effects of data visualization in evaluation! One experiment with members of the public showed visual data reports were no more influential than text-based reports in shaping readers’ attitudes. But we need more research to understand how and why these findings occurred.

Mason

  • Lesson learned: One data visualization does not fit all! This same experiment showed that members of the general public viewed visual reports as less credible and of lower quality than text-only reports. Tailoring your data visualization to your audience is essential if you want to get your message across.

Rad Resource: Using MTurk to field-test your reporting strategies is a fast and low-cost way of trialing your visualizations before sending them to clients < https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome> 

  • Lesson learned: One key to understanding the effectiveness of data visualization is knowing how it alters the cost structure of a task: whether it makes processing information easier or more difficult. Not all data visualizations are equal, and unless we’re careful our visualization efforts may make this processing task harder! 

Rad Resource: Colin Ware’s book on Information Visualization offers a great overview of the theoretical foundations for data visualization techniques and strategies <http://www.amazon.com/Information-Visualization-Third-Edition-Technologies/dp/0123814642>

  • Lesson learned: Adding interactivity to PDF documents is one way to tailor reports so readers can choose their own reading adventure.

Rad Resource: Nicole Lobb Dougherty’s presentation at AEA 2014 was a great introduction to adding simple interactivity to PDFs http://comm.eval.org/viewdocument/?DocumentKey=cd2aa473-f749-40c7-a3ca-d943d79828d2

  • Lesson learned: Actively working with the media to develop visual materials they can use can help to make sure your message gets across to a wider audience.

 

Rad resource: Robin Kipke’s presentation at AEA 2014 offered an insightful overview on how the Tobacco Control Evaluation Center worked with the media to communicate evaluation findings to the general public.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello! I am Jill Lipski Cain with the Improve Group. This blog post promotes the use of a style guide to make a report both purposeful and aesthetically-pleasing. I think of a style guide as a thoughtful plan that considers best practices in data visualization, delivery tone, and highlighting the important information. I’ll be using the example of a report our team recently developed for MNsure, Minnesota’s marketplace for choosing health insurance coverage. This 100-page report includes qualitative and quantitative findings, special treatment to specific content, and a robust appendix. Because of the report’s comprehensiveness, I needed a plan for how all of these bits and pieces would create a semblance of a whole, while at the same time giving the reader breathing room through negative space and use of photos. So, before you find yourself sweating over font choices at the 11th hour, consider the following:

Cain 1
Hot Tips:
Choose a tone for the look and feel. This includes up to three colors and two fonts, header and body styles, spacing, portrait or landscape, margins, and use of columns (if any). For MNsure, I created two style guides: one with an earthy-soft feel and another with a bold, modern flavor of mint green, cherry red, and dark grey (we chose this option). Here is an example of how to layout these reporting elements:

Determine how to distinguish content. Reports with multiple types of content (quotes, stories, findings, recommendations, etc.) need forethought as to how to inform the reader of the change in content and allow them quick access to specific content she or he is interested. Below is an example of how we treated text, quotes, and special callouts we captioned as a “Promising Practice” accompanied by a unique icon.

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Lessons Learned: TEAMWORK!

Teamwork with roles and communication is paramount to pulling off a beautiful and functional deliverable. As the designer, it was essential to know the content and context; otherwise, the design and choice of images would have missed an opportunity to bolster the messages, or worse, misrepresented the content. As a team, for example, we brainstormed key words and situations that best represented the content of the report sections. From there, I was able to narrow my photo search and come up with a lot of good options for the team to choose from.

And by communicating as a team, my colleagues were able to inform me as to which bars in the charts should standout (i.e. filled in a red among gray bars) to avoid the default of highlighting the most extreme bar on a chart. The design has to direct the reader to what is important, otherwise it falls short of the message.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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