Are Your Data Visualizations Readable by Everyone?

Take steps to ensure the data you are presenting is understandable and clear to all who receives it

Subscriber: Log Out

Editor’s Note: Norman Katz, president of supply chain consultancy Katzscan Inc., writes a monthly column for Supply Chain Management Review. Katz’s column appears on the third Monday of each month.

A buddy of mine, Mike in my fencing club, told me as we were chatting about nothing in particular one time that he was color-blind. Mike was in the construction industry, his specialty was laying tiles, and he did jobs on the side. His favorite jobs were doing kitchen back-splashes, and he also did floors and bathrooms. He couldn’t help his customers pick the tile colors due to his lack of ability to discern colors. But Mike discovered that he had the enhanced ability to distinguish subtle shades of gray, and that this capability helped him to cut and align tiles with more precision. The result was that Mike received rave reviews on the quality of his work from his customers and was often referred for other side jobs.

On a consulting assignment where I was putting together data visualizations on supply chain performance, I was reviewing the results with my reporting manager when he told me that one of the executives who would be the recipient was color-blind and that as nice as everything looked to the rest of us, this particular executive would not be able to appreciate any of it. 

Well, that would not do, no, not one bit. I thought of my fencing friend and how I could alter the data visualizations to accommodate all recipients.

I briefly thought of using just a gray-scale, but quickly realized that the shades of gray could be too subtle for some people to differentiate. I didn’t want to make the exception the norm, but I did want to ensure that I accommodated all parties equally.

I first decided to distinguish how I was presenting the different types of data: quantities versus monies. I opted to use vertical bar charts for the quantities, and horizontal bar charts for the monies. This would allow the viewer to quickly identifier what they were about to look at regarding unit values.

Next, I decided that the use of colors was fine, but that I also needed to use fill patterns associated with each color. I ensured that there weren’t too many colors used, e.g., red (severe), orange (bad), yellow (warning), blue (good), green (great), and selected fill patterns easily distinguishable from each other. I made the use of colors and their associated fill patterns consistent across all metrics, regardless of type (quantity or monetary). 

When I presented the supply chain metrics that I created from the raw data that I gathered, all recipients were wowed by the ability to quickly gravitate to and easily understand exactly what was going on. Whether the recipient could or could not see the colors, it did not matter. The messages that each visualization conveyed came through loud and clear, and that was what the objective was all about.

Good reporting standards should be part of an organization’s policies and guidelines. Expanding those reporting standards to consider people with unique requirements is achievable. Don’t wait until someone asks, and don’t force someone to be an exception: make sure that your data visualizations can be read by all those who receive them, whether the audience is internal or external.

SC
MR

Good reporting standards should be part of an organization’s policies and guidelines. Don’t wait until someone asks, and don’t force someone to be an exception: make sure that your data visualizations can be read by all those who receive them.
Getty Images
Good reporting standards should be part of an organization’s policies and guidelines. Don’t wait until someone asks, and don’t force someone to be an exception: make sure that your data visualizations can be read by all those who receive them.
Latest Resources
Case study: Optimizing warehouse space, performance and sustainability
Hamilton Beach improved storage density, reduced product damage, and enhanced safety and sustainability by partnering with Yale Lift Truck…
Download

About the Author

Norman Katz, President of Katzscan
Norman Katz's Bio Photo

Norman Katz is president of Katzscan Inc. a supply chain technology and operations consultancy that specializes in vendor compliance, ERP, EDI, and barcode applications.  Norman is the author of “Detecting and Reducing Supply Chain Fraud” (Gower/Routledge, 2012), “Successful Supply Chain Vendor Compliance” (Gower/Routledge, 2016), and “Attack, Parry, Riposte: A Fencer’s Guide To Better Business Execution” (Austin Macauley, 2020). Norman is a U.S. national and international speaker and article writer, and a foil and saber fencer and fencing instructor.

View Norman's author profile.

Subscribe

Supply Chain Management Review delivers the best industry content.
Subscribe today and get full access to all of Supply Chain Management Review’s exclusive content, email newsletters, premium resources and in-depth, comprehensive feature articles written by the industry's top experts on the subjects that matter most to supply chain professionals.
×

Search

Search

Sourcing & Procurement

Inventory Management Risk Management Global Trade Ports & Shipping

Business Management

Supply Chain TMS WMS 3PL Government & Regulation Sustainability Finance

Software & Technology

Artificial Intelligence Automation Cloud IoT Robotics Software

The Academy

Executive Education Associations Institutions Universities & Colleges

Resources

Podcasts Webcasts Companies Visionaries White Papers Special Reports Premiums Magazine Archive

Subscribe

SCMR Magazine Newsletters Magazine Archives Customer Service