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Recordings and Materials from the 2013 User Interface 18 Conference

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Displaying Data in Digestible Ways

Stephen Anderson

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A good experience is about more than access to information. We should design information in a way that helps people understand and make informed decisions.

In the same way that charts and data visualizations help us sift through numeric data, you can create visualizations that encourage users to explore content and concepts. Get the ideas, techniques, and patterns you’ll need to display that data in digestible ways.


Mine, prioritize, and display your data

  • How to facilitate real understanding, not just create graphics to represent data
  • The difference between data and information visualizations
  • Ways to prioritize the data after determining which stories you really want to tell

Select the best design patterns for your data

  • Which common design patterns might be holding you back
  • Where to look for ideas, and how to brainstorm your own visualization ideas
  • The common pattern behind all visualizations: control boxes, base layers, and objects


Consider psychology, perception, and fidelity

  • Why it’s important to expose yourself to many varieties of visualizations
  • How to relate metaphors to patterns, then pick the right ones for your data
  • Techniques for taking your graphic design to the next level

Describe hard-to-understand data in digestible ways

  • The brain’s natural pattern-matching mechanisms
  • How memory works, and why tapping into a prior experience can be advantageous
  • Ways to integrate visualization sharing and critique into your existing design process

Your visualizations are about to become more meaningful

Don’t just design pie charts

You’re being asked to do more visuals, but helpful designs aren’t about graphics alone. Learn how familiar patterns, user insights, data, and stories go into crafting awesome visualizations.

Anticipate your users’ questions

What are your competitors doing to answer your audience’s questions? Are there gaps in knowledge that you can fill? Find out where to look before starting your visualization design.

Do your content justice

Crafting visualizations means describing your content in a way that connects with users, helps them understand, and makes their decisions easier. So what’s the story you’re trying to tell?

You'll learn how to:

  • Better facilitate understanding using visual representations
  • Brainstorm ways to display data in fun-yet-intuitive ways
  • Identify patterns common to all visualizations
  • Choose which patterns will best help you convey meaning
  • Try on different metaphors until you find the one that fits
  • Use the brain’s pattern matching to your advantage

4 Practical Takeaways from Stephen’s Workshop

Spot problems and opportunities you didn’t see before

You’ll avoid common mistakes that plague content and inhibit comprehension.

Design visualizations people will share with others

Prioritize meaning, then follow a repeatable process to consistently tell compelling stories.

Know where to find inspiration and ideas

See what differentiates awesome from awful visualizations — then do the former.

Find the real stories that need to be told

You’ll describe different facets of the data at-hand in ways your users can actually understand.

This workshop includes hands-on exercises.

You’ll work individually and in groups to define a complex information problem, brainstorm how to represent key data, and help users make sense of it all through the design of an engaging visualization.

Stephen Anderson, Data Cowboy

@stephenanderson on Twitter

Even though Stephen P. Anderson is based in Dallas, he doesn’t take a Texas-sized approach to designing for data—as this workshop title illustrates. But he has made a Texas-sized impact on the way many of us work today.

Stephen is the man behind Mental Notes card deck—a tool that’s widely used by product teams to apply psychology to interaction design. He also authored Seductive Interaction Design, which answers the question: “How do we get people to fall in love with our applications?”

When he’s not helping to launch edtech and healthcare startups, Stephen can be found at some of the world’s largest organizations, teaching product teams about interactive visualizations, emotional design, and other fun topics. You can check @stephenanderson for everything he’s learning.

Oh, and he’s been a fan favorite of past UIE seminars—so we know you’ll love every minute of his day-long workshop and featured talk, too.