chapter 4 focus your audience’s attention


In the previous chapter, we learned about clutter and the importance of identifying and removing it from our visuals. While we work to eliminate distractions, we also want to look at what remains and consider how we want our audience to interact with our visual communications.

In this chapter, we further examine how people see and how you can use that to your advantage when crafting visuals. We will talk briefly about sight and memory in order to highlight the importance of some specific, powerful tools: preattentive attributes. We will explore how preattentive attributes like size, color, and position on page can be used strategically in two ways. First, preattentive attributes can be leveraged to help direct your audience’s attention to where you want them to focus it. Second, they can be used to create a visual hierarchy of elements to lead your audience through the information you want to communicate in the way you want them to process it.

By understanding how our audience sees and processes information, we put ourselves in a better position to be able to communicate effectively.

You see with your brain

Let’s look at a simplified picture of how people see, depicted in Figure 4.1. The process goes something like this: light reflects off of a stimulus. This gets captured by our eyes. We don’t fully see with our eyes; there is some processing that happens there, but mostly it is what happens in our brain that we think of as visual ...

Get Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.