Apply the NON-data-ink ratio to your #Tableau visuals

Are your brackets being eliminated?  Remove everything possible from your visualizations.

Visualization practitioners frequently mention Edward Tufte’s concept of the data-ink ratio, which refers to the ink (pixels) used to present data. What you rarely hear about is the non-data-ink ratio, which refers to elements such as scales, labels, borders, etc. Both sides of the discussion are about communicating clearly.

“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”  Blaise Pascal circa 1657

Does this feel familiar? Whether you consume or produce visuals, you’ve certainly had this experience. The little extra investment to deliver a product – that only has what’s absolutely necessary – can be the difference between great and stunning.

Your readers may not specifically notice the care you’ve taken, but they will certainly appreciate the clear and clean message. The goal of thoughtful design is to have it fade into the background. It’s poor design that distracts your attention from the important.

When working with clients, I simply describe this as “neatness counts.” Keep in mind there is no right definition of “neat.” It will take a bit of experimenting to understand what works best for your organization today, and it will likely change over time.

So start now. Take away or minimize one element of a frequently-used visual. Common targets are removing tick marks, lightening black lines to gray, and deleting an axis/ scales.

If anyone asks about the change, listen closely to what they like or don’t like, then adjust. Keep working on the same visual, one step at a time. Then, take all the learning and apply to your work going forward.

Please share what you find out and help grow the community. Thanks in advance.