Make an Impact with Visual Design

Whether you are head of a department of one, or part of a big analysis team it’s very likely that at some stage you need to present statistical information to coaches or players. OUr job as analysts is to get information to those that can use it, so making your charts have the biggest impact is an important skill.

Experience with graphical software and Business Intelligent tools have been steadily on the increase in recent years. Whether you present through a dedicated tool like Tableau or Excel the principles of good design are the same. The good news is that there are a few basic steps you can take to really make an impact.

To dig deeper on this subject I would highly recommend the book Storytelling with Data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

Preattentive Attributes

Within the brain there are 3 types of memory that are important to understand as we design visual communication: iconic memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

Iconic memory is super fast and happens without you consciously realizing it. Information stays in your iconic memory for a fraction of a second before it gets forwarded on to your short-term memory. Your iconic memory is is tuned to a set of preattentive attributes and we can use these to help our message land better.

Colour is perhaps the most frequently used of these – but how do we apply it correctly.

Take a look at this first image – Can you count how many times the number 9 is shown?

Now do the same with the below image. 

The second example leverages your iconic memory and you are able so see the 9’s before you even realise.

If we use preattentive attributes strategically they can help us enable our audience to see what we want them to see before they even know they’re seeing it!

Visual Analytics

“Visual analytics is the representation and presentation of data that exploits our visual perception abilities in order to amplify cognition.” (Andy Kirk)

That’s just what you experienced. Humans can see visual patterns very well, but only when the patterns really play to a human’s strengths. We need to use the attributes to our advantage when we are designing our charts or dashboards.

A Quick Example

Here I’ve tried to illustrate how with a few simple changes you can turn this chart that is much more easily understood to something that (hopefully) a coach could look at and have their eyes quickly and easily drawn to the important information. We want the coach or scouting department to quickly see how we have identified as the Top 10 in various categories. It’s not that they couldn’t get that information from the first chart, it’s a case of making this as easy and painless as possible.

Being Clever with Colour

This 30 min video gives a great example of how to use colour effectively.



Rob Carroll. Founder of The Video Performance Analyst. Always learning.