How to achieve visual order

Have you ever experienced somebody putting up a very busy chart during a presentation and thought - this all looks really clever but I've no idea what I'm supposed to get out of it? 

You have perhaps then also experienced the tension between listening to what the presenter is saying, while at the same time trying to figure out what their chart is telling you. You may have found that you can't do both at the same time.

This is cognitive load.  

We want to be aware of cognitive load so that we don't put our audience in that position.  

We've already talked about minimising non-data ink - one of the key principles of effective visualisation. We want to use this principle to declutter our charts, and then focus our audience's attention on the main ideas that we are trying to communicate. 

Perhaps without realising it explicitly, excess clutter can lead to an uncomfortable experience for our audience. Clutter can make things feel more complicated than they actually are. 

Remember our job is to make the complicated simple - to extract the meaning and the message from the data and communicate that clearly. 

If our visuals appear overly complicated, it's less likely that people will want to invest the energy to understand what we are communicating, and we will have reduced our ability to communicate effectively.

In this section we're going to look at how the human visual system works, and some principles of visual perception. 

Understanding these will help us to create communication that works with, and not against, the natural ways our brains function.

Thinking with our eyes experiment

First, it’s time for some live experimentation to help us better understand how our brains process visual information.


You're going to need to be ready with a stopwatch to do the experiment at the end of this session. Just a heads up that in the final part of this video you'll see two pictures switching with a patterned page coming up in between them.

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