Chapter 2. Source Trinity: Ingredients of Successful Visualizations

Let’s look a little more closely at the three major sources of influence on the design of your data visualization. It’s important to be clear that this applies mainly to explanatory visualization. While exploratory visualization is more about you finding out what’s in your data, explanatory visualization is about you as a designer telling the story of the data to your reader. These three components are your holy trinity when designing data visualizations.


As a designer, you have a goal. You may not be aware of it, but you are creating a visualization for some reason. Being aware of your motivations, goals, and priorities will help you design a successful visualization, rather than merely create an arbitrary visual representation of your data.

Why Are You Here?

Understanding and defining your goal is key to your success; it is the foundation of your process. Having a well-defined goal will inform your subsequent design decisions, and will give you a standard to evaluate your design against. And it will help you make appropriate choices long before you start assigning axes and plotting points.

As discussed in Chapter 1, there are different types of visualizations. Knowing which type of visualization you’re working with is an excellent first step in your design process. You need to know whether you have a specific story to tell with your data (explanation), or you are visualizing it to begin to see what’s ...

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