Chapter 4 Keep It Simple

Keeping it simple can relate to various aspects of your work, be it design, storytelling, or analysis. Before providing guidance on how you can meld simplicity into your work, let us define what we mean.

What Is Simplicity?

Simplicity for data visualization often focuses on minimizing the number of elements that do not add value to your display. These include borders, gridlines, axes lines, and boxes, which can easily distract from your core message. This recommendation also relates to the information itself. You should strive to create a visualization that focuses on specific aspects of the data, rather than including all fields and metrics but not saying much about any of them.

A broader definition describes simplicity as the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded; freedom from pretense or guile; directness of expression.1

With data visualizations, you typically aim to communicate information, ideally in a way that makes it accessible quickly and easily for the audience. Sometimes, including additional visual indicators, such as icons or images, can enhance a design. However, if overused, they can distract from the core message.

This chapter focuses on different types of simplicity as they relate to data visualization, specifically:

  • Simplicity in design
  • Simplicity in analysis
  • Simplicity in storytelling

Simplicity in Design

Simplicity in design can be recognized in visualizations that are clear, easy to understand, uncluttered, and ...

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