Data Visualization and Reporting TIG

Evaluation use is a hot topic, but no one is looking at the role of graphic design.

Guidance on graphic design of evaluation reports in the literature of our field is sparse. Typically, discussion of use of evaluation findings (or lack thereof) focuses on types of use (i.e., conceptual, process, etc) and factors affecting use (i.e., relevance, timing, etc.) but graphic design is notably absent. Texts on the topic of communicating or reporting evaluation findings are also limited in this regard. They tend to limit their discussion to knowing one’s audience and formats of reporting (i.e., brochures, newsletters, oral presentations). Some texts acknowledge the role of graphic design in reporting, but give it a cursory address, such as suggesting that one hire a graphic designer, or “use white space” with no direction on how to make that happen. A couple of evaluators have advocated for the “methods-oriented report” that emphasizes results over the traditional layout, but these have been short on the details of how to enact their recommendations in a word-processing program. Only a few texts have attempted to give guidance on graphic design, such as providing direction on how to create charts or structure a report. However, the resources are all dated. In fact, if one takes into consideration contemporary teachings on graphic design principles, the evaluation texts have the potential to be miseducating.

In my last post, I said I’d develop a checklist for the use of graphic design in reporting. Yep, its coming. In the meantime, I am working on the proposal for a new TIG (Topical Interest Group) within the American Evaluation Association. Its time to bring consideration of data visualization and communication to the mainstream in evaluation. If you’re interested in being a member, send me an email.

And in that meantime, check out how data visualization is developing in other fields. (A shoutout to Humphrey Costello for sending me the links to these blogs, none of which are written by AEA members.)

Andrew Gelman’s blog, which makes statistical translation look easy.

Nathan Yau’s blog, which also has a link to the periodic table of swearing, FYI.

Shawn Allen’s blog, which is designed for a course but we can peek anyway.

Let’s bring this same caliber of work into evaluation. Let’s be interesting. Join me.