Sometimes you need to visualize ideas and concepts, abstract non-quantitative things. This is an entirely different skill set from data visualization, but many of the same principles apply. In this lesson, learn about a few key ideas to make your concept visualizations as impactful as possible, even for very abstract concepts.
(dramatic music) - The primary focus of this course and my other courses here on LinkedIn Learning is data visualization. But it's rare to create any visual communications output without also communicating non-quantitative information. We need to communicate themes, categories, emotions, processes, structures, and other conceptual ideas, some concrete and others quite abstract. Concept visualization is more in the realm of illustration, communicating abstract conceptual ideas using visual forms that are more heavily influenced by culture, language, and historical references. You can go to design school and spend years learning how to do this well, but this short lesson will allow you to improve your skills in this regard. It comes down to three key ideas, which can be summed up with the acronym, I love my acronyms, ETC, like et cetera. One, examples, two, time, three, cultural sensitivity. First the E, examples. How did you learn how to talk? You watched and listened to everyone around you talk. How did you learn how to do most things in life? By witnessing it and then copying it. The best way to learn concept visualization is to do your research. Find other people who have tried to communicate similar concepts and copy them. Of course, I don't really literally mean stealing other people's ideas, but you know what? For a simple PowerPoint presentation needing an icon to represent a concept, like say manufacturing, you can easily use the same or similar icons to say manufacturing that others have used. For icons you're essentially relying on a visual language, so literally copying others' ideas is valid. This is less confusing for your audience. For a more unique and original idea, like communicating a complex process, you try to learn from others' attempts at doing similar things, even if what you're communicating is different in important ways. Now the T, time. My main point here is that the more complex your idea, the more time and effort it'll take to get it right. The example I like to give is this. Say you need to visually communicate the idea of money. I ask my workshop participants to do this all the time. That's easy, right? I'd guess with at least 95% certainty that you're seeing a dollar sign right now, right? The currency symbol in your head. Even if you're outside the US, that symbol is so powerful internationally that it's a quick and easy go-to visual for that concept. But if you need to communicate a more abstract idea, like say the word dizzy for example, it gets much more difficult. Even if you have a quick idea, like a person with crossed eyes and stars floating around his head, they may not be the best idea depending on your goal. So you take some time and iterate. Try a few other ideas and think about whether a visual of someone who is dizzy, or an action that will make you dizzy, or a visual that might make you dizzy if you were to look at it, might be more effective for your purpose. Taking the time to consider whether your first idea is your best idea will often allow you to find a better idea. Time and iteration are key to good concept visualization. Finally, there is C, cultural sensitivity. Let's say you're visualizing gender. You can certainly use male and female isotypes, and you can even use color, blue and pink to reinforce these ideas. But is that color palette too simplistic and reinforcing gender stereotypes that might annoy your audience? Maybe you can be sensitive to your audience and think of alternatives. Color isn't the only consideration. I have a client that used a white picket fence as a metaphor for a chart about housing prices. This is a great metaphor for a US audience, but probably less effective in Asia, for example. Cultural sensitivity should influence your color choices, the visual metaphors you use, and things like currency symbols, geographic references, and more. Just think critically about these choices, and you'll be a step ahead. I like this acronym because non-designers often think of the icons they choose to visualize categories, or the visual they produce to explain a process, as being somewhat of an et cetera kind of a task. They don't think about it until the end of their process. They just throw it together like it's not worthy of the time the primary focus of their work deserves. But I want you to be conscious of that tendency. Nod to it with this acronym, but do put the time and effort into it that's required to do it well. Because when you're visualizing a concept, you're short-handing the idea so it's easily understood and retrieved by your audience's memory. You're supposed to be helping your audience, which means you need to do it well and not treat it as something you throw together once more important work is done. Up next, we're going to talk to Francis Gagnon, who's done a lot of, and thought a lot about, concept visualization. And he's going to be sharing some great insights that you won't want to miss.