If you have reached the point where you have collected, captured and analysed M&E data (well done!), it’s time to communicate the results with staff and other external stakeholders. There is some exciting data visualisation research being done on how to create beautiful charts that help readers to engage with the results in a way that enhances understanding and ultimately utilisation of the results. Stephanie Evergreen is the guru of data viz for M&E, and she has a few simple principles to follow when creating charts, which I will outline here. I highly recommend checking out her blog for some exciting data viz resources.
Colour. Simplicity is key! Use minimal colours, preferably your NGO’s brand colours. Use colours that will still be distinct when printed in black and white, and are friendly for colour blind readers (go to www.colorbrewer2.org for some pallets). Use dark text against a light background.
Text. Left align titles and subtitles (people read from left to right!). Use horizontal text wherever possible and weighting to grab attention. Label data directly without a legend if possible. Use hierarchical text size (title is largest, followed by subtitle, data labels, axis labels, etc). The title and subtitle must tell you the “So What?” about the chart.
Lines. Remove unnecessary axes, gridlines, tick marks and chart outlines (these create “visual noise”).
Numbers. Minimise y-axis intervals. Do not use decimal points on the y-axis or labels unless necessary. Start axis at theoretical minimum and end at theoretical maximum
Arrangement. Order data intentionally (e.g. largest to smallest). Do not use 3D graphs!
Here’s a default Excel chart that you might see in an M&E report:
And here’s a beautiful one that has been “Evergreened”:
The second chart will grab readers’ attention and they will engage with the results better compared to the first chart.