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Data Visualization 101: Channel Your Inner Art Director

June 14th, 2019

Data visualization is based on the simple premise that we learn with our eyes.

In a fast moving world, you have a precious few seconds to really catch someone’s attention. I am not a graphic designer, and know that many talented designers exist who specialize in capturing the viewer’s attention right away.

Despite this, I can still leverage data visualization in all written communications, from evaluation plans to final reports. I am an evaluator AND I am an art director. And you can be too. 

An art director understands the overall direction the graphic should take. In my evaluation work, that means my job is to create the content, sketch out graphic ideas, and then pass them along to a skilled graphic designer who can make my vision a reality. Ultimately, the goal is to create a visually pleasing way to logically and simply communicate the program model and outcomes we are working towards.

Let’s take my project with In4All’s middle school impact model for an example.

Step 1: First, I needed to collaborate with the In4All staff to identify they key concepts we wanted to include in the model: namely, defining what the program does and what change is expected as a result.

Step 2: The next step was for me to work with our graphic designer, Robyn Barbon from Folklore Media. I organized my findings from my meetings with In4All staff into the following design concept notes and presented it to her in a working session. I also sent her the organization’s logo, brand colors, and other brand style guidelines.

In4All Impact Model: Design Concept

Step 3, Final Product:Based on the design concept and a meeting with Robyn, she created the final product below.  This model is the cornerstone for their program evaluation process.

Takeaways: The In4All impact model leverages visualization to engage readers with the content. Much more interesting than just tables, right?

You’re welcome to learn graphic skills yourself. But, don’t let the lack of graphic design expertise hold you back. Pair up with a graphic designer that can help you bring your ideas to fruition.


Interested in learning more about how you can channel your inner art director? Feel free to email me anytime – I’d love to help!

Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs...

Chari accurately captured the fundamental goals and mission of our organization and transformed our input into a clear evaluation process that helps us assess the impact of our programs on the lives of the families that we serve. Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs and to guide change, ensuring that we are delivering services in the most effective way possible.

Brandi Tuck, Executive Director, Portland Homeless Family Solutions

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