Tables and charts

In business, a key type of visualisation is the depiction of figures and changes in them. The use of tables makes sense when interpreting them in front of the audience has been planned as a dramaturgical element of the presentation. Yet the limits of the possible are soon reached because the space available on a ppt slide allows only a few cells at a time to be displayed clearly. Generally, though, it is the evaluation of data that is of interest. Hence the popularity of charts, which can be created or automatically generated from figures using functions available in common Microsoft Office programmes, although specialist use requires some expert knowledge. This can be found, for example, in Quirk (2015) or Stein-Fairhurst (2015).

Sufficient experience has been gathered in using the most elementary forms of representation - dots, lines, columns, bars, circles and pie charts - to allow some lessons to be learned. They point towards a stronger focus on the essentials - 3-D, for instance, should be used only if the topic demands it - and a closer connection between graphic elements and their text explanations (e.g., a circle segment should be explained by text placed in or adjacent to it instead of by reference to a colour code set out in the key). Frequently encountered are comparisons, such as that in Figure 1, intended to show how slides can be improved, the current focus being on “slim” slide design; see Hermann-Ruess and Ott (2014: 97,142-143), Carter (2013: 353 - especially from the perspective of scholars’ self-marketing).

Example of a comparative graphic from an advice manual (Morton 2014:154)

Figure 1: Example of a comparative graphic from an advice manual (Morton 2014:154)

For more sophisticated or less common visualisations, special programmes are used; on this, see Stacey, Salvatore, and Jorgensen (2013), who make use of such tools as “visual analytics” and other technique (e.g., “scatter plots”, “radar charts”, “matrices”). For stock exchange developments, in particular, graphics-based analyses have become routine (“candlesticks”, “equivolume boxes”, “relative rotation graphs”, etc.). When viewing charts, audiences must beware of the “fraudulent dimensions” [Dimensionenschwindel] (Dall 2009:152) that can be created by disproportional representations of small parts. For presenters, the injunction is: “Tell the truth. [... D]on’t alter the proportion of your axes.” (Duarte 2012:138-139).

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