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Blog Graphic Design 15 Effective Visual Presentation Tips To Wow Your Audience

15 Effective Visual Presentation Tips To Wow Your Audience

Written by: Krystle Wong Sep 28, 2023

Visual Presentation Tips

So, you’re gearing up for that big presentation and you want it to be more than just another snooze-fest with slides. You want it to be engaging, memorable and downright impressive. 

Well, you’ve come to the right place — I’ve got some slick tips on how to create a visual presentation that’ll take your presentation game up a notch. 

Packed with presentation templates that are easily customizable, keep reading this blog post to learn the secret sauce behind crafting presentations that captivate, inform and remain etched in the memory of your audience.

Click to jump ahead:

What is a visual presentation & why is it important?

15 effective tips to make your visual presentations more engaging, 6 major types of visual presentation you should know , what are some common mistakes to avoid in visual presentations, visual presentation faqs, 5 steps to create a visual presentation with venngage.

A visual presentation is a communication method that utilizes visual elements such as images, graphics, charts, slides and other visual aids to convey information, ideas or messages to an audience. 

Visual presentations aim to enhance comprehension engagement and the overall impact of the message through the strategic use of visuals. People remember what they see, making your point last longer in their heads. 

Without further ado, let’s jump right into some great visual presentation examples that would do a great job in keeping your audience interested and getting your point across.

In today’s fast-paced world, where information is constantly bombarding our senses, creating engaging visual presentations has never been more crucial. To help you design a presentation that’ll leave a lasting impression, I’ve compiled these examples of visual presentations that will elevate your game.

1. Use the rule of thirds for layout

Ever heard of the rule of thirds? It’s a presentation layout trick that can instantly up your slide game. Imagine dividing your slide into a 3×3 grid and then placing your text and visuals at the intersection points or along the lines. This simple tweak creates a balanced and seriously pleasing layout that’ll draw everyone’s eyes.

2. Get creative with visual metaphors

Got a complex idea to explain? Skip the jargon and use visual metaphors. Throw in images that symbolize your point – for example, using a road map to show your journey towards a goal or using metaphors to represent answer choices or progress indicators in an interactive quiz or poll.

3. Visualize your data with charts and graphs

The right data visualization tools not only make content more appealing but also aid comprehension and retention. Choosing the right visual presentation for your data is all about finding a good match. 

For ordinal data, where things have a clear order, consider using ordered bar charts or dot plots. When it comes to nominal data, where categories are on an equal footing, stick with the classics like bar charts, pie charts or simple frequency tables. And for interval-ratio data, where there’s a meaningful order, go for histograms, line graphs, scatterplots or box plots to help your data shine.

In an increasingly visual world, effective visual communication is a valuable skill for conveying messages. Here’s a guide on how to use visual communication to engage your audience while avoiding information overload.

visual representation ideas

4. Employ the power of contrast

Want your important stuff to pop? That’s where contrast comes in. Mix things up with contrasting colors, fonts or shapes. It’s like highlighting your key points with a neon marker – an instant attention grabber.

5. Tell a visual story

Structure your slides like a storybook and create a visual narrative by arranging your slides in a way that tells a story. Each slide should flow into the next, creating a visual narrative that keeps your audience hooked till the very end.

Icons and images are essential for adding visual appeal and clarity to your presentation. Venngage provides a vast library of icons and images, allowing you to choose visuals that resonate with your audience and complement your message. 

visual representation ideas

6. Show the “before and after” magic

Want to drive home the impact of your message or solution? Whip out the “before and after” technique. Show the current state (before) and the desired state (after) in a visual way. It’s like showing a makeover transformation, but for your ideas.

7. Add fun with visual quizzes and polls

To break the monotony and see if your audience is still with you, throw in some quick quizzes or polls. It’s like a mini-game break in your presentation — your audience gets involved and it makes your presentation way more dynamic and memorable.

8. End with a powerful visual punch

Your presentation closing should be a showstopper. Think a stunning clip art that wraps up your message with a visual bow, a killer quote that lingers in minds or a call to action that gets hearts racing.

visual representation ideas

9. Engage with storytelling through data

Use storytelling magic to bring your data to life. Don’t just throw numbers at your audience—explain what they mean, why they matter and add a bit of human touch. Turn those stats into relatable tales and watch your audience’s eyes light up with understanding.

visual representation ideas

10. Use visuals wisely

Your visuals are the secret sauce of a great presentation. Cherry-pick high-quality images, graphics, charts and videos that not only look good but also align with your message’s vibe. Each visual should have a purpose – they’re not just there for decoration. 

11. Utilize visual hierarchy

Employ design principles like contrast, alignment and proximity to make your key info stand out. Play around with fonts, colors and placement to make sure your audience can’t miss the important stuff.

12. Engage with multimedia

Static slides are so last year. Give your presentation some sizzle by tossing in multimedia elements. Think short video clips, animations, or a touch of sound when it makes sense, including an animated logo . But remember, these are sidekicks, not the main act, so use them smartly.

13. Interact with your audience

Turn your presentation into a two-way street. Start your presentation by encouraging your audience to join in with thought-provoking questions, quick polls or using interactive tools. Get them chatting and watch your presentation come alive.

visual representation ideas

When it comes to delivering a group presentation, it’s important to have everyone on the team on the same page. Venngage’s real-time collaboration tools enable you and your team to work together seamlessly, regardless of geographical locations. Collaborators can provide input, make edits and offer suggestions in real time. 

14. Incorporate stories and examples

Weave in relatable stories, personal anecdotes or real-life examples to illustrate your points. It’s like adding a dash of spice to your content – it becomes more memorable and relatable.

15. Nail that delivery

Don’t just stand there and recite facts like a robot — be a confident and engaging presenter. Lock eyes with your audience, mix up your tone and pace and use some gestures to drive your points home. Practice and brush up your presentation skills until you’ve got it down pat for a persuasive presentation that flows like a pro.

Venngage offers a wide selection of professionally designed presentation templates, each tailored for different purposes and styles. By choosing a template that aligns with your content and goals, you can create a visually cohesive and polished presentation that captivates your audience.

Looking for more presentation ideas ? Why not try using a presentation software that will take your presentations to the next level with a combination of user-friendly interfaces, stunning visuals, collaboration features and innovative functionalities that will take your presentations to the next level. 

Visual presentations come in various formats, each uniquely suited to convey information and engage audiences effectively. Here are six major types of visual presentations that you should be familiar with:

1. Slideshows or PowerPoint presentations

Slideshows are one of the most common forms of visual presentations. They typically consist of a series of slides containing text, images, charts, graphs and other visual elements. Slideshows are used for various purposes, including business presentations, educational lectures and conference talks.

visual representation ideas

2. Infographics

Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. They combine text, images and graphics to convey complex concepts or data in a concise and visually appealing manner. Infographics are often used in marketing, reporting and educational materials.

Don’t worry, they are also super easy to create thanks to Venngage’s fully customizable infographics templates that are professionally designed to bring your information to life. Be sure to try it out for your next visual presentation!

visual representation ideas

3. Video presentation

Videos are your dynamic storytellers. Whether it’s pre-recorded or happening in real-time, videos are the showstoppers. You can have interviews, demos, animations or even your own mini-documentary. Video presentations are highly engaging and can be shared in both in-person and virtual presentations .

4. Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs are visual representations of data that make it easier to understand and analyze numerical information. Common types include bar charts, line graphs, pie charts and scatterplots. They are commonly used in scientific research, business reports and academic presentations.

Effective data visualizations are crucial for simplifying complex information and Venngage has got you covered. Venngage’s tools enable you to create engaging charts, graphs,and infographics that enhance audience understanding and retention, leaving a lasting impression in your presentation.

visual representation ideas

5. Interactive presentations

Interactive presentations involve audience participation and engagement. These can include interactive polls, quizzes, games and multimedia elements that allow the audience to actively participate in the presentation. Interactive presentations are often used in workshops, training sessions and webinars.

Venngage’s interactive presentation tools enable you to create immersive experiences that leave a lasting impact and enhance audience retention. By incorporating features like clickable elements, quizzes and embedded multimedia, you can captivate your audience’s attention and encourage active participation.

6. Poster presentations

Poster presentations are the stars of the academic and research scene. They consist of a large poster that includes text, images and graphics to communicate research findings or project details and are usually used at conferences and exhibitions. For more poster ideas, browse through Venngage’s gallery of poster templates to inspire your next presentation.

visual representation ideas

Different visual presentations aside, different presentation methods also serve a unique purpose, tailored to specific objectives and audiences. Find out which type of presentation works best for the message you are sending across to better capture attention, maintain interest and leave a lasting impression. 

To make a good presentation , it’s crucial to be aware of common mistakes and how to avoid them. Without further ado, let’s explore some of these pitfalls along with valuable insights on how to sidestep them.

Overloading slides with text

Text heavy slides can be like trying to swallow a whole sandwich in one bite – overwhelming and unappetizing. Instead, opt for concise sentences and bullet points to keep your slides simple. Visuals can help convey your message in a more engaging way.

Using low-quality visuals

Grainy images and pixelated charts are the equivalent of a scratchy vinyl record at a DJ party. High-resolution visuals are your ticket to professionalism. Ensure that the images, charts and graphics you use are clear, relevant and sharp.

Choosing the right visuals for presentations is important. To find great visuals for your visual presentation, Browse Venngage’s extensive library of high-quality stock photos. These images can help you convey your message effectively, evoke emotions and create a visually pleasing narrative. 

Ignoring design consistency

Imagine a book with every chapter in a different font and color – it’s a visual mess. Consistency in fonts, colors and formatting throughout your presentation is key to a polished and professional look.

Reading directly from slides

Reading your slides word-for-word is like inviting your audience to a one-person audiobook session. Slides should complement your speech, not replace it. Use them as visual aids, offering key points and visuals to support your narrative.

Lack of visual hierarchy

Neglecting visual hierarchy is like trying to find Waldo in a crowd of clones. Use size, color and positioning to emphasize what’s most important. Guide your audience’s attention to key points so they don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Ignoring accessibility

Accessibility isn’t an option these days; it’s a must. Forgetting alt text for images, color contrast and closed captions for videos can exclude individuals with disabilities from understanding your presentation. 

Relying too heavily on animation

While animations can add pizzazz and draw attention, overdoing it can overshadow your message. Use animations sparingly and with purpose to enhance, not detract from your content.

Using jargon and complex language

Keep it simple. Use plain language and explain terms when needed. You want your message to resonate, not leave people scratching their heads.

Not testing interactive elements

Interactive elements can be the life of your whole presentation, but not testing them beforehand is like jumping into a pool without checking if there’s water. Ensure that all interactive features, from live polls to multimedia content, work seamlessly. A smooth experience keeps your audience engaged and avoids those awkward technical hiccups.

Presenting complex data and information in a clear and visually appealing way has never been easier with Venngage. Build professional-looking designs with our free visual chart slide templates for your next presentation.

What software or tools can I use to create visual presentations?

You can use various software and tools to create visual presentations, including Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, Adobe Illustrator, Canva, Prezi and Venngage, among others.

What is the difference between a visual presentation and a written report?

The main difference between a visual presentation and a written report is the medium of communication. Visual presentations rely on visuals, such as slides, charts and images to convey information quickly, while written reports use text to provide detailed information in a linear format.

How do I effectively communicate data through visual presentations?

To effectively communicate data through visual presentations, simplify complex data into easily digestible charts and graphs, use clear labels and titles and ensure that your visuals support the key messages you want to convey.

Are there any accessibility considerations for visual presentations?

Accessibility considerations for visual presentations include providing alt text for images, ensuring good color contrast, using readable fonts and providing transcripts or captions for multimedia content to make the presentation inclusive.

Most design tools today make accessibility hard but Venngage’s Accessibility Design Tool comes with accessibility features baked in, including accessible-friendly and inclusive icons.

How do I choose the right visuals for my presentation?

Choose visuals that align with your content and message. Use charts for data, images for illustrating concepts, icons for emphasis and color to evoke emotions or convey themes.

What is the role of storytelling in visual presentations?

Storytelling plays a crucial role in visual presentations by providing a narrative structure that engages the audience, helps them relate to the content and makes the information more memorable.

How can I adapt my visual presentations for online or virtual audiences?

To adapt visual presentations for online or virtual audiences, focus on concise content, use engaging visuals, ensure clear audio, encourage audience interaction through chat or polls and rehearse for a smooth online delivery.

What is the role of data visualization in visual presentations?

Data visualization in visual presentations simplifies complex data by using charts, graphs and diagrams, making it easier for the audience to understand and interpret information.

How do I choose the right color scheme and fonts for my visual presentation?

Choose a color scheme that aligns with your content and brand and select fonts that are readable and appropriate for the message you want to convey.

How can I measure the effectiveness of my visual presentation?

Measure the effectiveness of your visual presentation by collecting feedback from the audience, tracking engagement metrics (e.g., click-through rates for online presentations) and evaluating whether the presentation achieved its intended objectives.

Ultimately, creating a memorable visual presentation isn’t just about throwing together pretty slides. It’s about mastering the art of making your message stick, captivating your audience and leaving a mark.

Lucky for you, Venngage simplifies the process of creating great presentations, empowering you to concentrate on delivering a compelling message. Follow the 5 simple steps below to make your entire presentation visually appealing and impactful:

1. Sign up and log In: Log in to your Venngage account or sign up for free and gain access to Venngage’s templates and design tools.

2. Choose a template: Browse through Venngage’s presentation template library and select one that best suits your presentation’s purpose and style. Venngage offers a variety of pre-designed templates for different types of visual presentations, including infographics, reports, posters and more.

3. Edit and customize your template: Replace the placeholder text, image and graphics with your own content and customize the colors, fonts and visual elements to align with your presentation’s theme or your organization’s branding.

4. Add visual elements: Venngage offers a wide range of visual elements, such as icons, illustrations, charts, graphs and images, that you can easily add to your presentation with the user-friendly drag-and-drop editor.

5. Save and export your presentation: Export your presentation in a format that suits your needs and then share it with your audience via email, social media or by embedding it on your website or blog .

So, as you gear up for your next presentation, whether it’s for business, education or pure creative expression, don’t forget to keep these visual presentation ideas in your back pocket.

Feel free to experiment and fine-tune your approach and let your passion and expertise shine through in your presentation. With practice, you’ll not only build presentations but also leave a lasting impact on your audience – one slide at a time.

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Visual Representation

What is visual representation.

Visual Representation refers to the principles by which markings on a surface are made and interpreted. Designers use representations like typography and illustrations to communicate information, emotions and concepts. Color, imagery, typography and layout are crucial in this communication.

Alan Blackwell, cognition scientist and professor, gives a brief introduction to visual representation:

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We can see visual representation throughout human history, from cave drawings to data visualization :

Art uses visual representation to express emotions and abstract ideas.

Financial forecasting graphs condense data and research into a more straightforward format.

Icons on user interfaces (UI) represent different actions users can take.

The color of a notification indicates its nature and meaning.

A painting of an abstract night sky over a village, with a tree in the foreground.

Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" uses visuals to evoke deep emotions, representing an abstract, dreamy night sky. It exemplifies how art can communicate complex feelings and ideas.

© Public domain

Importance of Visual Representation in Design

Designers use visual representation for internal and external use throughout the design process . For example:

Storyboards are illustrations that outline users’ actions and where they perform them.

Sitemaps are diagrams that show the hierarchy and navigation structure of a website.

Wireframes are sketches that bring together elements of a user interface's structure.

Usability reports use graphs and charts to communicate data gathered from usability testing.

User interfaces visually represent information contained in applications and computerized devices.

A sample usability report that shows a few statistics, a bell curve and a donut chart.

This usability report is straightforward to understand. Yet, the data behind the visualizations could come from thousands of answered surveys.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Visual representation simplifies complex ideas and data and makes them easy to understand. Without these visual aids, designers would struggle to communicate their ideas, findings and products . For example, it would be easier to create a mockup of an e-commerce website interface than to describe it with words.

A side-by-side comparison of a simple mockup, and a very verbose description of the same mockup. A developer understands the simple one, and is confused by the verbose one.

Visual representation simplifies the communication of designs. Without mockups, it would be difficult for developers to reproduce designs using words alone.

Types of Visual Representation

Below are some of the most common forms of visual representation designers use.

Text and Typography

Text represents language and ideas through written characters and symbols. Readers visually perceive and interpret these characters. Typography turns text into a visual form, influencing its perception and interpretation.

We have developed the conventions of typography over centuries , for example, in documents, newspapers and magazines. These conventions include:

Text arranged on a grid brings clarity and structure. Gridded text makes complex information easier to navigate and understand. Tables, columns and other formats help organize content logically and enhance readability.

Contrasting text sizes create a visual hierarchy and draw attention to critical areas. For example, headings use larger text while body copy uses smaller text. This contrast helps readers distinguish between primary and secondary information.

Adequate spacing and paragraphing improve the readability and appearance of the text. These conventions prevent the content from appearing cluttered. Spacing and paragraphing make it easier for the eye to follow and for the brain to process the information.

Balanced image-to-text ratios create engaging layouts. Images break the monotony of text, provide visual relief and illustrate or emphasize points made in the text. A well-planned ratio ensures neither text nor images overwhelm each other. Effective ratios make designs more effective and appealing.

Designers use these conventions because people are familiar with them and better understand text presented in this manner.

A table of names and numbers indicating the funerals of victims of the plague in London in 1665.

This table of funerals from the plague in London in 1665 uses typographic conventions still used today. For example, the author arranged the information in a table and used contrasting text styling to highlight information in the header.

Illustrations and Drawings

Designers use illustrations and drawings independently or alongside text. An example of illustration used to communicate information is the assembly instructions created by furniture retailer IKEA. If IKEA used text instead of illustrations in their instructions, people would find it harder to assemble the furniture.

A diagram showing how to assemble a chest of drawers from furniture retailer IKEA.

IKEA assembly instructions use illustrations to inform customers how to build their furniture. The only text used is numeric to denote step and part numbers. IKEA communicates this information visually to: 1. Enable simple communication, 2. Ensure their instructions are easy to follow, regardless of the customer’s language.

© IKEA, Fair use

Illustrations and drawings can often convey the core message of a visual representation more effectively than a photograph. They focus on the core message , while a photograph might distract a viewer with additional details (such as who this person is, where they are from, etc.)

For example, in IKEA’s case, photographing a person building a piece of furniture might be complicated. Further, photographs may not be easy to understand in a black-and-white print, leading to higher printing costs. To be useful, the pictures would also need to be larger and would occupy more space on a printed manual, further adding to the costs.

But imagine a girl winking—this is something we can easily photograph. 

Ivan Sutherland, creator of the first graphical user interface, used his computer program Sketchpad to draw a winking girl. While not realistic, Sutherland's representation effectively portrays a winking girl. The drawing's abstract, generic elements contrast with the distinct winking eye. The graphical conventions of lines and shapes represent the eyes and mouth. The simplicity of the drawing does not draw attention away from the winking.

A simple illustration of a winking girl next to a photograph of a winking girl.

A photo might distract from the focused message compared to Sutherland's representation. In the photo, the other aspects of the image (i.e., the particular person) distract the viewer from this message.

© Ivan Sutherland, CC BY-SA 3.0 and Amina Filkins, Pexels License

Information and Data Visualization

Designers and other stakeholders use data and information visualization across many industries.

Data visualization uses charts and graphs to show raw data in a graphic form. Information visualization goes further, including more context and complex data sets. Information visualization often uses interactive elements to share a deeper understanding.

For example, most computerized devices have a battery level indicator. This is a type of data visualization. IV takes this further by allowing you to click on the battery indicator for further insights. These insights may include the apps that use the most battery and the last time you charged your device.

A simple battery level icon next to a screenshot of a battery information dashboard.

macOS displays a battery icon in the menu bar that visualizes your device’s battery level. This is an example of data visualization. Meanwhile, macOS’s settings tell you battery level over time, screen-on-usage and when you last charged your device. These insights are actionable; users may notice their battery drains at a specific time. This is an example of information visualization.

© Low Battery by Jemis Mali, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, and Apple, Fair use

Information visualization is not exclusive to numeric data. It encompasses representations like diagrams and maps. For example, Google Maps collates various types of data and information into one interface:

Data Representation: Google Maps transforms complex geographical data into an easily understandable and navigable visual map.

Interactivity: Users can interactively customize views that show traffic, satellite imagery and more in real-time.

Layered Information: Google Maps layers multiple data types (e.g., traffic, weather) over geographical maps for comprehensive visualization.

User-Centered Design : The interface is intuitive and user-friendly, with symbols and colors for straightforward data interpretation.

A screenshot of Google Maps showing the Design Museum in London, UK. On the left is a profile of the location, on the right is the map.

The volume of data contained in one screenshot of Google Maps is massive. However, this information is presented clearly to the user. Google Maps highlights different terrains with colors and local places and businesses with icons and colors. The panel on the left lists the selected location’s profile, which includes an image, rating and contact information.

© Google, Fair use

Symbolic Correspondence

Symbolic correspondence uses universally recognized symbols and signs to convey specific meanings . This method employs widely recognized visual cues for immediate understanding. Symbolic correspondence removes the need for textual explanation.

For instance, a magnifying glass icon in UI design signifies the search function. Similarly, in environmental design, symbols for restrooms, parking and amenities guide visitors effectively.

A screenshot of the homepage Interaction Design Foundation website. Across the top is a menu bar. Beneath the menu bar is a header image with a call to action.

The Interaction Design Foundation (IxDF) website uses the universal magnifying glass symbol to signify the search function. Similarly, the play icon draws attention to a link to watch a video.

How Designers Create Visual Representations

Visual language.

Designers use elements like color , shape and texture to create a communicative visual experience. Designers use these 8 principles:

Size – Larger elements tend to capture users' attention readily.

Color – Users are typically drawn to bright colors over muted shades.

Contrast – Colors with stark contrasts catch the eye more effectively.

Alignment – Unaligned elements are more noticeable than those aligned ones.

Repetition – Similar styles repeated imply a relationship in content.

Proximity – Elements placed near each other appear to be connected.

Whitespace – Elements surrounded by ample space attract the eye.

Texture and Style – Users often notice richer textures before flat designs.

visual representation ideas

The 8 visual design principles.

In web design , visual hierarchy uses color and repetition to direct the user's attention. Color choice is crucial as it creates contrast between different elements. Repetition helps to organize the design—it uses recurring elements to establish consistency and familiarity.

In this video, Alan Dix, Professor and Expert in Human-Computer Interaction, explains how visual alignment affects how we read and absorb information:

Correspondence Techniques

Designers use correspondence techniques to align visual elements with their conceptual meanings. These techniques include color coding, spatial arrangement and specific imagery. In information visualization, different colors can represent various data sets. This correspondence aids users in quickly identifying trends and relationships .

Two pie charts showing user satisfaction. One visualizes data 1 day after release, and the other 1 month after release. The colors are consistent between both charts, but the segment sizes are different.

Color coding enables the stakeholder to see the relationship and trend between the two pie charts easily.

In user interface design, correspondence techniques link elements with meaning. An example is color-coding notifications to state their nature. For instance, red for warnings and green for confirmation. These techniques are informative and intuitive and enhance the user experience.

A screenshot of an Interaction Design Foundation course page. It features information about the course and a video. Beneath this is a pop-up asking the user if they want to drop this course.

The IxDF website uses blue for call-to-actions (CTAs) and red for warnings. These colors inform the user of the nature of the action of buttons and other interactive elements.

Perception and Interpretation

If visual language is how designers create representations, then visual perception and interpretation are how users receive those representations. Consider a painting—the viewer’s eyes take in colors, shapes and lines, and the brain perceives these visual elements as a painting.

In this video, Alan Dix explains how the interplay of sensation, perception and culture is crucial to understanding visual experiences in design:

Copyright holder: Michael Murphy _ Appearance time: 07:19 - 07:37 _ Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C67JuZnBBDc

Visual perception principles are essential for creating compelling, engaging visual representations. For example, Gestalt principles explain how we perceive visual information. These rules describe how we group similar items, spot patterns and simplify complex images. Designers apply Gestalt principles to arrange content on websites and other interfaces. This application creates visually appealing and easily understood designs.

In this video, design expert and teacher Mia Cinelli discusses the significance of Gestalt principles in visual design . She introduces fundamental principles, like figure/ground relationships, similarity and proximity.


Everyone's experiences, culture and physical abilities dictate how they interpret visual representations. For this reason, designers carefully consider how users interpret their visual representations. They employ user research and testing to ensure their designs are attractive and functional.

A painting of a woman sitting and looking straight at the viewer. Her expression is difficult to read.

Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa", is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The piece is renowned for its subject's enigmatic expression. Some interpret her smile as content and serene, while others see it as sad or mischievous. Not everyone interprets this visual representation in the same way.

Color is an excellent example of how one person, compared to another, may interpret a visual element. Take the color red:

In Chinese culture, red symbolizes luck, while in some parts of Africa, it can mean death or illness.

A personal experience may mean a user has a negative or positive connotation with red.

People with protanopia and deuteranopia color blindness cannot distinguish between red and green.

In this video, Joann and Arielle Eckstut, leading color consultants and authors, explain how many factors influence how we perceive and interpret color:

Learn More about Visual Representation

Read Alan Blackwell’s chapter on visual representation from The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction.

Learn about the F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content from Jakob Nielsen.

Read Smashing Magazine’s article, Visual Design Language: The Building Blocks Of Design .

Take the IxDF’s course, Perception and Memory in HCI and UX .

Questions related to Visual Representation

Some highly cited research on visual representation and related topics includes:

Roland, P. E., & Gulyás, B. (1994). Visual imagery and visual representation. Trends in Neurosciences, 17(7), 281-287. Roland and Gulyás' study explores how the brain creates visual imagination. They look at whether imagining things like objects and scenes uses the same parts of the brain as seeing them does. Their research shows the brain uses certain areas specifically for imagination. These areas are different from the areas used for seeing. This research is essential for understanding how our brain works with vision.

Lurie, N. H., & Mason, C. H. (2007). Visual Representation: Implications for Decision Making. Journal of Marketing, 71(1), 160-177.

This article looks at how visualization tools help in understanding complicated marketing data. It discusses how these tools affect decision-making in marketing. The article gives a detailed method to assess the impact of visuals on the study and combination of vast quantities of marketing data. It explores the benefits and possible biases visuals can bring to marketing choices. These factors make the article an essential resource for researchers and marketing experts. The article suggests using visual tools and detailed analysis together for the best results.

Lohse, G. L., Biolsi, K., Walker, N., & Rueter, H. H. (1994, December). A classification of visual representations. Communications of the ACM, 37(12), 36+.

This publication looks at how visuals help communicate and make information easier to understand. It divides these visuals into six types: graphs, tables, maps, diagrams, networks and icons. The article also looks at different ways these visuals share information effectively.

​​If you’d like to cite content from the IxDF website , click the ‘cite this article’ button near the top of your screen.

Some recommended books on visual representation and related topics include:

Chaplin, E. (1994). Sociology and Visual Representation (1st ed.) . Routledge.

Chaplin's book describes how visual art analysis has changed from ancient times to today. It shows how photography, post-modernism and feminism have changed how we see art. The book combines words and images in its analysis and looks into real-life social sciences studies.

Mitchell, W. J. T. (1994). Picture Theory. The University of Chicago Press.

Mitchell's book explores the important role and meaning of pictures in the late twentieth century. It discusses the change from focusing on language to focusing on images in cultural studies. The book deeply examines the interaction between images and text in different cultural forms like literature, art and media. This detailed study of how we see and read visual representations has become an essential reference for scholars and professionals.

Koffka, K. (1935). Principles of Gestalt Psychology. Harcourt, Brace & World.

"Principles of Gestalt Psychology" by Koffka, released in 1935, is a critical book in its field. It's known as a foundational work in Gestalt psychology, laying out the basic ideas of the theory and how they apply to how we see and think. Koffka's thorough study of Gestalt psychology's principles has profoundly influenced how we understand human perception. This book has been a significant reference in later research and writings.

A visual representation, like an infographic or chart, uses visual elements to show information or data. These types of visuals make complicated information easier to understand and more user-friendly.

Designers harness visual representations in design and communication. Infographics and charts, for instance, distill data for easier audience comprehension and retention.

For an introduction to designing basic information visualizations, take our course, Information Visualization .

Text is a crucial design and communication element, transforming language visually. Designers use font style, size, color and layout to convey emotions and messages effectively.

Designers utilize text for both literal communication and aesthetic enhancement. Their typography choices significantly impact design aesthetics, user experience and readability.

Designers should always consider text's visual impact in their designs. This consideration includes font choice, placement, color and interaction with other design elements.

In this video, design expert and teacher Mia Cinelli teaches how Gestalt principles apply to typography:

Designers use visual elements in projects to convey information, ideas, and messages. Designers use images, colors, shapes and typography for impactful designs.

In UI/UX design, visual representation is vital. Icons, buttons and colors provide contrast for intuitive, user-friendly website and app interfaces.

Graphic design leverages visual representation to create attention-grabbing marketing materials. Careful color, imagery and layout choices create an emotional connection.

Product design relies on visual representation for prototyping and idea presentation. Designers and stakeholders use visual representations to envision functional, aesthetically pleasing products.

Our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. This fact highlights the crucial role of visual representation in design.

Our course, Visual Design: The Ultimate Guide , teaches you how to use visual design elements and principles in your work effectively.

Visual representation, crucial in UX, facilitates interaction, comprehension and emotion. It combines elements like images and typography for better interfaces.

Effective visuals guide users, highlight features and improve navigation. Icons and color schemes communicate functions and set interaction tones.

UX design research shows visual elements significantly impact emotions. 90% of brain-transmitted information is visual.

To create functional, accessible visuals, designers use color contrast and consistent iconography. These elements improve readability and inclusivity.

An excellent example of visual representation in UX is Apple's iOS interface. iOS combines a clean, minimalist design with intuitive navigation. As a result, the operating system is both visually appealing and user-friendly.

Michal Malewicz, Creative Director and CEO at Hype4, explains why visual skills are important in design:

Learn more about UI design from Michal in our Master Class, Beyond Interfaces: The UI Design Skills You Need to Know .

The fundamental principles of effective visual representation are:

Clarity : Designers convey messages clearly, avoiding clutter.

Simplicity : Embrace simple designs for ease and recall.

Emphasis : Designers highlight key elements distinctively.

Balance : Balance ensures design stability and structure.

Alignment : Designers enhance coherence through alignment.

Contrast : Use contrast for dynamic, distinct designs.

Repetition : Repeating elements unify and guide designs.

Designers practice these principles in their projects. They also analyze successful designs and seek feedback to improve their skills.

Read our topic description of Gestalt principles to learn more about creating effective visual designs. The Gestalt principles explain how humans group elements, recognize patterns and simplify object perception.

Color theory is vital in design, helping designers craft visually appealing and compelling works. Designers understand color interactions, psychological impacts and symbolism. These elements help designers enhance communication and guide attention.

Designers use complementary , analogous and triadic colors for contrast, harmony and balance. Understanding color temperature also plays a crucial role in design perception.

Color symbolism is crucial, as different colors can represent specific emotions and messages. For instance, blue can symbolize trust and calmness, while red can indicate energy and urgency.

Cultural variations significantly influence color perception and symbolism. Designers consider these differences to ensure their designs resonate with diverse audiences.

For actionable insights, designers should:

Experiment with color schemes for effective messaging. 

Assess colors' psychological impact on the audience. 

Use color contrast to highlight critical elements. 

Ensure color choices are accessible to all.

In this video, Joann and Arielle Eckstut, leading color consultants and authors, give their six tips for choosing color:

Learn more about color from Joann and Arielle in our Master Class, How To Use Color Theory To Enhance Your Designs .

Typography and font choice are crucial in design, impacting readability and mood. Designers utilize them for effective communication and expression.

Designers' perception of information varies with font type. Serif fonts can imply formality, while sans-serifs can give a more modern look.

Typography choices by designers influence readability and user experience. Well-spaced, distinct fonts enhance readability, whereas decorative fonts may hinder it.

Designers use typography to evoke emotions and set a design's tone. Choices in font size, style and color affect the emotional impact and message clarity.

Designers use typography to direct attention, create hierarchy and establish rhythm. These benefits help with brand recognition and consistency across mediums.

Read our article to learn how web fonts are critical to the online user experience .

Designers create a balance between simplicity and complexity in their work. They focus on the main messages and highlight important parts. Designers use the principles of visual hierarchy, like size, color and spacing. They also use empty space to make their designs clear and understandable.

The Gestalt law of Prägnanz suggests people naturally simplify complex images. This principle aids in making even intricate information accessible and engaging.

Through iteration and feedback, designers refine visuals. They remove extraneous elements and highlight vital information. Testing with the target audience ensures the design resonates and is comprehensible.

Michal Malewicz explains how to master hierarchy in UI design using the Gestalt rule of proximity:

Literature on Visual Representation

Here’s the entire UX literature on Visual Representation by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Visual Representation

Take a deep dive into Visual Representation with our course Perception and Memory in HCI and UX .

How does all of this fit with interaction design and user experience? The simple answer is that most of our understanding of human experience comes from our own experiences and just being ourselves. That might extend to people like us, but it gives us no real grasp of the whole range of human experience and abilities. By considering more closely how humans perceive and interact with our world, we can gain real insights into what designs will work for a broader audience: those younger or older than us, more or less capable, more or less skilled and so on.

“You can design for all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot design for all the people all the time.“ – William Hudson (with apologies to Abraham Lincoln)

While “design for all of the people all of the time” is an impossible goal, understanding how the human machine operates is essential to getting ever closer. And of course, building solutions for people with a wide range of abilities, including those with accessibility issues, involves knowing how and why some human faculties fail. As our course tutor, Professor Alan Dix, points out, this is not only a moral duty but, in most countries, also a legal obligation.

Portfolio Project

In the “ Build Your Portfolio: Perception and Memory Project ”, you’ll find a series of practical exercises that will give you first-hand experience in applying what we’ll cover. If you want to complete these optional exercises, you’ll create a series of case studies for your portfolio which you can show your future employer or freelance customers.

This in-depth, video-based course is created with the amazing Alan Dix , the co-author of the internationally best-selling textbook  Human-Computer Interaction and a superstar in the field of Human-Computer Interaction . Alan is currently a professor and Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University.

Gain an Industry-Recognized UX Course Certificate

Use your industry-recognized Course Certificate on your resume , CV , LinkedIn profile or your website.

All open-source articles on Visual Representation

Data visualization for human perception.

visual representation ideas

The Key Elements & Principles of Visual Design

visual representation ideas


Guidelines for Good Visual Information Representations

visual representation ideas

  • 4 years ago

Philosophy of Interaction

Information visualization – an introduction to multivariate analysis.

visual representation ideas

  • 8 years ago

Aesthetic Computing

How to represent linear data visually for information visualization.

visual representation ideas

  • 5 years ago

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18 Types of Diagrams You Can Use to Visualize Data (Templates Included)

piktochart types of diagrams

Have you ever found yourself stuck while trying to explain a complex concept to someone? Or struggling to put your idea into words?

This is where diagrams come in.

While simple text is best for highlighting figures or information, diagrams are handy for conveying complex ideas and loads of information without overwhelming your audience. They can visualize almost anything, from numerical data to qualitative relationships, making them versatile tools in numerous fields.

Whether you’re in the academe or enterprise setting, this guide is for you. We’ll explore the different types of diagrams with a brief explanation for each type, the best time to use a diagram type, and how you can use them to be a better visual storyteller and communicator. You’ll also find examples and templates for each type of diagram.

Let’s get on with it.

You can also follow along by creating a free account . Select a template to get started.

What exactly is a diagram? 

A diagram is a visual snapshot of information. Think of diagrams as visual representations of data or information that communicate a concept, idea, or process in a simplified and easily understandable way. You can also use them to illustrate relationships, hierarchies, cycles, or workflows. 

Diagrams aren’t just used to show quantitative data, such as sales earnings or satisfaction ratings with a diagram. They’re equally helpful if you want to share qualitative data. For example, a diagram could be used to illustrate the life cycle of a butterfly, showcasing each transformation stage. 

example of a simple diagram showing the life cycle of a butterfly

Now, let’s jump into the various types of diagrams, ranging from simple flow charts to the more complex Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams.

18 diagram types and when to use each type 

Whether you’re doing data analysis or need a simple visual representation of data, there is a wide array of diagrams at your fingertips. If you’re having a hard time choosing the right diagram for your data visualization needs, use the list below as a quick guide. 

1. Flowchart 

A flowchart is a type of diagram that acts as a roadmap for a process or workflow. It uses shapes and arrows to guide you through each step, making complex procedures simple to understand.

Flowcharts are best for : Simplifying complex processes into understandable stages, making it easier for your readers to follow along and see the ‘big picture”. 

example of a flowchart by Piktochart

2. Line graph

Line graphs , sometimes called line charts, visualizes numerical data points connected by straight lines. In a line graph or line chart, data points representing different time periods are plotted and connected by a line. This helps with easy visualization of trends and patterns.

Line graphs are best for: Representing the change of one or more quantities over time, making them excellent for tracking the progression of data points.

example of a line graph by Piktochart

3. Bar chart 

A bar chart , often interchangeable with bar graphs, is a type of diagram used primarily to display and compare data. For this diagram type, rectangular bars of varying lengths represent data of different categories or groups. Each bar represents a category, and the length or height of the bar corresponds to the numeric data or quantity.

Variations of bar charts include stacked bar charts, grouped bar charts, and horizontal bar charts. 

Bar charts are best for : Comparing the frequency, count, or other measures (such as average) for different categories or groups. A bar chart is particularly useful if you want to display data sets that can be grouped into categories.

example of a bar chart by Piktochart

4. Circle diagram or pie chart

A pie chart is a circular diagram that represents data in slices. Each slice of the pie chart represents a different category and its proportion to the whole.

Pie charts are best for: Displaying categorical data where you want to highlight each category’s percentage of the total.

example of a pie chart by Piktochart

5.Venn diagrams

A Venn diagram compares the differences and similarities of groups of things. As a diagram based on overlapping circles, each circle in a Venn diagram represents a different set, and their overlap represents the intersection of the data sets. 

Venn diagrams are best for : Visualizing the relationships between different groups of things. They are helpful when you want to show areas of overlap between elements. A good example is if you want to compare the features of different products or two overlapping concepts, like in the Ikigai Venn diagram template below. Easily create your Venn diagram with Piktochart’s online Venn diagram maker .

example of a Venn diagram by Piktochart

6. Tree diagrams

A tree diagram is a diagram that starts with one central idea and expands with branching lines to show multiple paths, all possible outcomes, decisions, or steps. Each ‘branch’ represents a possible outcome or decision in a tree diagram, moving from left to right. Tree diagrams are best for : Representing hierarchy like organizational roles, evolutionary relationships, or possible outcomes of events like when a company launches a product. 

example of a tree diagram

7. Organizational chart 

Organizational charts are diagrams used to display the structure of an organization. In an organizational chart, each box or node represents a different role or department, and lines connecting the boxes illustrate the lines of authority, communication, and responsibility. The chart typically starts with the highest-ranking individual or body (like a CEO or Board of Directors) at the top and branches downwards to various levels of management and individual employees.

Organizational charts are best for : Showing relationships between different members and departments in a company or organization. 

example of an organizational chart by Piktochart

8. Gantt charts 

Gantt charts are typically used in project management to represent the timeline of a project. They consist of horizontal bars, with each bar representing a task or activity.

For this type of diagram, each chart is represented by a horizontal bar spanning from its start date to its end date. The length of the bar corresponds to the duration of the task. Tasks are listed vertically, often in the order they need to be completed. In some projects, tasks are grouped under larger, overarching activities or phases.

Gantt charts are best for : Projects where you need to manage multiple tasks that occur over time, often in a specific sequence, and may depend on each other.

example of a Gantt chart

9. Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagram

Software engineers use Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams to create standardized diagrams that illustrate the building blocks of a software system.

UML diagrams, such as class diagrams, sequence diagrams, and state diagrams, provide different perspectives on complex systems. Class diagrams depict a system’s static structure, displaying classes, attributes, and relationships. Meanwhile, sequence diagrams illustrate interactions and communication between system entities, providing insight into system functionality. 

UML diagrams are best for : Visualizing a software system’s architecture in software engineering.

example of a UML class diagram

10. SWOT analysis diagrams 

A SWOT analysis diagram is used in business strategy for evaluating internal and external factors affecting the organization. The acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Each category is represented in a quadrant chart, providing a comprehensive view of the business landscape.

SWOT diagrams are best for : Strategic planning and decision-making. They represent data that can help identify areas of competitive advantage and inform strategy development.

Piktochart offers professionally-designed templates to create diagrams , reports , presentations , brochures , and more. Sign up for a free account today to create impressive visuals within minutes.

11. Fishbone diagram 

Fishbone diagrams, sometimes called cause-and-effect diagrams,  are used to represent the causes of a problem. They consist of a central idea, with different diagrams or branches representing the factors contributing to the problem.

Fishbone diagrams are best for : Brainstorming and problem-solving sessions.

example of a fishbone diagram

12. Funnel chart

A funnel chart is a type of diagram used to represent stages or progress. In a funnel chart, each stage is represented by a horizontal bar, and the length of the bar corresponds to the quantity or value at that stage. The chart is widest at the top, where the quantity or value is greatest, and narrows down to represent the decrease at each subsequent stage.

Funnel charts are best for: Visual representation of the sales pipeline or data visualization of how a broad market is narrowed down into potential leads and a select group of customers.

example of a sales funnel

13. SIPOC diagrams

A SIPOC diagram is used in process improvement to represent the different components of a process. The acronym stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers.

SIPOC diagrams are best for: Providing a high-level view of a process which helps visualize the sequence of events and their interconnections.

example of a SIPOC diagram

14. Swimlane diagrams

Swimlane diagrams are best for mapping out complex processes that involve multiple participants or groups.

Keep in mind that each lane (which can be either horizontal or vertical) in a swimlane diagram represents a different participant or group involved in the process. The steps or activities carried out by each participant are plotted within their respective lanes. This helps clarify roles and responsibilities as well as the sequence of events and points of interaction.

Swimlane diagrams are best for : Visualizing how different roles or departments interact and collaborate throughout a workflow or process.

example of a swimlane diagram

15. Mind maps

A mind map starts with a central idea and expands outward to include supporting ideas, related subtopics, concepts, or tasks, which can be further subdivided as needed. The branches radiating out from the central idea represent hierarchical relationships and connections between the different pieces of information in a mind map.

Mind maps are best for : Brainstorming, taking notes, organizing information, and visualizing complex concepts in a digestible format.

example of a mind map by Piktochart

16. Scatter Plots

Scatter plots are used to compare data and represent the relationship between two variables. In a scatter plot, each dot represents a data point with its position along the x and y axes representing the values of two variables.

Scatter plots are best for : Observing relationships and trends between the two variables. These scatter plots are useful for regression analysis, hypothesis testing, and data exploration in various fields such as statistics, economics, and natural sciences.

example of a scatter plot

17. PERT chart

PERT (Project Evaluation Review Technique) charts are project management tools used to schedule tasks. Each node or arrow represents each task, while lines represent dependencies between tasks. The chart includes task duration and earliest/latest start/end times.

Construction project managers often use PERT charts to schedule tasks like design, site prep, construction, and inspection. Identifying the critical path helps focus resources on tasks that impact the project timeline.

PERT charts are best for : Visualizing the sequence of tasks, the time required for each task, and project timelines.

example of a PERT chart

18. Network diagrams

A network diagram visually represents the relationships between elements in a system or project. In network diagrams, each node represents an element, such as a device in a computer network or a task in a project. The lines or arrows connecting the nodes represent the relationships or interactions between these elements.

Network diagrams are best for: Visually representing the relationships or connections between different elements in a system or a project. They are often used in telecommunications, computer networking, project management, and organization planning.

example of a network diagram

Choosing the right diagram starts with a good understanding of your audience

Understanding your audience’s needs, expectations, and context is necessary before designing diagrams. The best diagram is not the one that looks the most impressive but the one that communicates complex information most clearly and effectively to your intended audience.

Make professional diagrams for free with no design experience with Piktochart’s online diagram maker . Sign up for free .


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What is visual representation?

In the vast landscape of communication, where words alone may fall short, visual representation emerges as a powerful ally. In a world inundated with information, the ability to convey complex ideas, emotions, and data through visual means is becoming increasingly crucial. But what exactly is visual representation, and why does it hold such sway in our understanding?

Defining Visual Representation:

Visual representation is the act of conveying information, ideas, or concepts through visual elements such as images, charts, graphs, maps, and other graphical forms. It’s a means of translating the abstract into the tangible, providing a visual language that transcends the limitations of words alone.

The Power of Images:

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” encapsulates the essence of visual representation. Images have an unparalleled ability to evoke emotions, tell stories, and communicate complex ideas in an instant. Whether it’s a photograph capturing a poignant moment or an infographic distilling intricate data, images possess a unique capacity to resonate with and engage the viewer on a visceral level.

Facilitating Understanding:

One of the primary functions of visual representation is to enhance understanding. Humans are inherently visual creatures, and we often process and retain visual information more effectively than text. Complex concepts that might be challenging to grasp through written explanations can be simplified and clarified through visual aids. This is particularly valuable in fields such as science, where intricate processes and structures can be elucidated through diagrams and illustrations.

Visual representation also plays a crucial role in education. In classrooms around the world, teachers leverage visual aids to facilitate learning, making lessons more engaging and accessible. From simple charts that break down historical timelines to interactive simulations that bring scientific principles to life, visual representation is a cornerstone of effective pedagogy.

Data Visualization:

In an era dominated by big data, the importance of data visualization cannot be overstated. Raw numbers and statistics can be overwhelming and abstract, but when presented visually, they transform into meaningful insights. Graphs, charts, and maps are powerful tools for conveying trends, patterns, and correlations, enabling decision-makers to glean actionable intelligence from vast datasets.

Consider the impact of a well-crafted infographic that distills complex research findings into a visually digestible format. Data visualization not only simplifies information but also allows for more informed decision-making in fields ranging from business and healthcare to social sciences and environmental studies.

Cultural and Artistic Expression:

Visual representation extends beyond the realm of information and education; it is also a potent form of cultural and artistic expression. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other visual arts serve as mediums through which individuals can convey their emotions, perspectives, and cultural narratives. Artistic visual representation has the power to transcend language barriers, fostering a shared human experience that resonates universally.


In a world inundated with information, visual representation stands as a beacon of clarity and understanding. Whether it’s simplifying complex concepts, conveying data-driven insights, or expressing the depth of human emotion, visual elements enrich our communication in ways that words alone cannot. As we navigate an increasingly visual society, recognizing and harnessing the power of visual representation is not just a skill but a necessity for effective communication and comprehension. So, let us embrace the visual language that surrounds us, unlocking a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the world.

  • Open access
  • Published: 19 July 2015

The role of visual representations in scientific practices: from conceptual understanding and knowledge generation to ‘seeing’ how science works

  • Maria Evagorou 1 ,
  • Sibel Erduran 2 &
  • Terhi Mäntylä 3  

International Journal of STEM Education volume  2 , Article number:  11 ( 2015 ) Cite this article

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The use of visual representations (i.e., photographs, diagrams, models) has been part of science, and their use makes it possible for scientists to interact with and represent complex phenomena, not observable in other ways. Despite a wealth of research in science education on visual representations, the emphasis of such research has mainly been on the conceptual understanding when using visual representations and less on visual representations as epistemic objects. In this paper, we argue that by positioning visual representations as epistemic objects of scientific practices, science education can bring a renewed focus on how visualization contributes to knowledge formation in science from the learners’ perspective.

This is a theoretical paper, and in order to argue about the role of visualization, we first present a case study, that of the discovery of the structure of DNA that highlights the epistemic components of visual information in science. The second case study focuses on Faraday’s use of the lines of magnetic force. Faraday is known of his exploratory, creative, and yet systemic way of experimenting, and the visual reasoning leading to theoretical development was an inherent part of the experimentation. Third, we trace a contemporary account from science focusing on the experimental practices and how reproducibility of experimental procedures can be reinforced through video data.


Our conclusions suggest that in teaching science, the emphasis in visualization should shift from cognitive understanding—using the products of science to understand the content—to engaging in the processes of visualization. Furthermore, we suggest that is it essential to design curriculum materials and learning environments that create a social and epistemic context and invite students to engage in the practice of visualization as evidence, reasoning, experimental procedure, or a means of communication and reflect on these practices. Implications for teacher education include the need for teacher professional development programs to problematize the use of visual representations as epistemic objects that are part of scientific practices.

During the last decades, research and reform documents in science education across the world have been calling for an emphasis not only on the content but also on the processes of science (Bybee 2014 ; Eurydice 2012 ; Duschl and Bybee 2014 ; Osborne 2014 ; Schwartz et al. 2012 ), in order to make science accessible to the students and enable them to understand the epistemic foundation of science. Scientific practices, part of the process of science, are the cognitive and discursive activities that are targeted in science education to develop epistemic understanding and appreciation of the nature of science (Duschl et al. 2008 ) and have been the emphasis of recent reform documents in science education across the world (Achieve 2013 ; Eurydice 2012 ). With the term scientific practices, we refer to the processes that take place during scientific discoveries and include among others: asking questions, developing and using models, engaging in arguments, and constructing and communicating explanations (National Research Council 2012 ). The emphasis on scientific practices aims to move the teaching of science from knowledge to the understanding of the processes and the epistemic aspects of science. Additionally, by placing an emphasis on engaging students in scientific practices, we aim to help students acquire scientific knowledge in meaningful contexts that resemble the reality of scientific discoveries.

Despite a wealth of research in science education on visual representations, the emphasis of such research has mainly been on the conceptual understanding when using visual representations and less on visual representations as epistemic objects. In this paper, we argue that by positioning visual representations as epistemic objects, science education can bring a renewed focus on how visualization contributes to knowledge formation in science from the learners’ perspective. Specifically, the use of visual representations (i.e., photographs, diagrams, tables, charts) has been part of science and over the years has evolved with the new technologies (i.e., from drawings to advanced digital images and three dimensional models). Visualization makes it possible for scientists to interact with complex phenomena (Richards 2003 ), and they might convey important evidence not observable in other ways. Visual representations as a tool to support cognitive understanding in science have been studied extensively (i.e., Gilbert 2010 ; Wu and Shah 2004 ). Studies in science education have explored the use of images in science textbooks (i.e., Dimopoulos et al. 2003 ; Bungum 2008 ), students’ representations or models when doing science (i.e., Gilbert et al. 2008 ; Dori et al. 2003 ; Lehrer and Schauble 2012 ; Schwarz et al. 2009 ), and students’ images of science and scientists (i.e., Chambers 1983 ). Therefore, studies in the field of science education have been using the term visualization as “the formation of an internal representation from an external representation” (Gilbert et al. 2008 , p. 4) or as a tool for conceptual understanding for students.

In this paper, we do not refer to visualization as mental image, model, or presentation only (Gilbert et al. 2008 ; Philips et al. 2010 ) but instead focus on visual representations or visualization as epistemic objects. Specifically, we refer to visualization as a process for knowledge production and growth in science. In this respect, modeling is an aspect of visualization, but what we are focusing on with visualization is not on the use of model as a tool for cognitive understanding (Gilbert 2010 ; Wu and Shah 2004 ) but the on the process of modeling as a scientific practice which includes the construction and use of models, the use of other representations, the communication in the groups with the use of the visual representation, and the appreciation of the difficulties that the science phase in this process. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to present through the history of science how visualization can be considered not only as a cognitive tool in science education but also as an epistemic object that can potentially support students to understand aspects of the nature of science.

Scientific practices and science education

According to the New Generation Science Standards (Achieve 2013 ), scientific practices refer to: asking questions and defining problems; developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematical and computational thinking; constructing explanations and designing solutions; engaging in argument from evidence; and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. A significant aspect of scientific practices is that science learning is more than just about learning facts, concepts, theories, and laws. A fuller appreciation of science necessitates the understanding of the science relative to its epistemological grounding and the process that are involved in the production of knowledge (Hogan and Maglienti 2001 ; Wickman 2004 ).

The New Generation Science Standards is, among other changes, shifting away from science inquiry and towards the inclusion of scientific practices (Duschl and Bybee 2014 ; Osborne 2014 ). By comparing the abilities to do scientific inquiry (National Research Council 2000 ) with the set of scientific practices, it is evident that the latter is about engaging in the processes of doing science and experiencing in that way science in a more authentic way. Engaging in scientific practices according to Osborne ( 2014 ) “presents a more authentic picture of the endeavor that is science” (p.183) and also helps the students to develop a deeper understanding of the epistemic aspects of science. Furthermore, as Bybee ( 2014 ) argues, by engaging students in scientific practices, we involve them in an understanding of the nature of science and an understanding on the nature of scientific knowledge.

Science as a practice and scientific practices as a term emerged by the philosopher of science, Kuhn (Osborne 2014 ), refers to the processes in which the scientists engage during knowledge production and communication. The work that is followed by historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science (Latour 2011 ; Longino 2002 ; Nersessian 2008 ) revealed the scientific practices in which the scientists engage in and include among others theory development and specific ways of talking, modeling, and communicating the outcomes of science.

Visualization as an epistemic object

Schematic, pictorial symbols in the design of scientific instruments and analysis of the perceptual and functional information that is being stored in those images have been areas of investigation in philosophy of scientific experimentation (Gooding et al. 1993 ). The nature of visual perception, the relationship between thought and vision, and the role of reproducibility as a norm for experimental research form a central aspect of this domain of research in philosophy of science. For instance, Rothbart ( 1997 ) has argued that visualizations are commonplace in the theoretical sciences even if every scientific theory may not be defined by visualized models.

Visual representations (i.e., photographs, diagrams, tables, charts, models) have been used in science over the years to enable scientists to interact with complex phenomena (Richards 2003 ) and might convey important evidence not observable in other ways (Barber et al. 2006 ). Some authors (e.g., Ruivenkamp and Rip 2010 ) have argued that visualization is as a core activity of some scientific communities of practice (e.g., nanotechnology) while others (e.g., Lynch and Edgerton 1988 ) have differentiated the role of particular visualization techniques (e.g., of digital image processing in astronomy). Visualization in science includes the complex process through which scientists develop or produce imagery, schemes, and graphical representation, and therefore, what is of importance in this process is not only the result but also the methodology employed by the scientists, namely, how this result was produced. Visual representations in science may refer to objects that are believed to have some kind of material or physical existence but equally might refer to purely mental, conceptual, and abstract constructs (Pauwels 2006 ). More specifically, visual representations can be found for: (a) phenomena that are not observable with the eye (i.e., microscopic or macroscopic); (b) phenomena that do not exist as visual representations but can be translated as such (i.e., sound); and (c) in experimental settings to provide visual data representations (i.e., graphs presenting velocity of moving objects). Additionally, since science is not only about replicating reality but also about making it more understandable to people (either to the public or other scientists), visual representations are not only about reproducing the nature but also about: (a) functioning in helping solving a problem, (b) filling gaps in our knowledge, and (c) facilitating knowledge building or transfer (Lynch 2006 ).

Using or developing visual representations in the scientific practice can range from a straightforward to a complicated situation. More specifically, scientists can observe a phenomenon (i.e., mitosis) and represent it visually using a picture or diagram, which is quite straightforward. But they can also use a variety of complicated techniques (i.e., crystallography in the case of DNA studies) that are either available or need to be developed or refined in order to acquire the visual information that can be used in the process of theory development (i.e., Latour and Woolgar 1979 ). Furthermore, some visual representations need decoding, and the scientists need to learn how to read these images (i.e., radiologists); therefore, using visual representations in the process of science requires learning a new language that is specific to the medium/methods that is used (i.e., understanding an X-ray picture is different from understanding an MRI scan) and then communicating that language to other scientists and the public.

There are much intent and purposes of visual representations in scientific practices, as for example to make a diagnosis, compare, describe, and preserve for future study, verify and explore new territory, generate new data (Pauwels 2006 ), or present new methodologies. According to Latour and Woolgar ( 1979 ) and Knorr Cetina ( 1999 ), visual representations can be used either as primary data (i.e., image from a microscope). or can be used to help in concept development (i.e., models of DNA used by Watson and Crick), to uncover relationships and to make the abstract more concrete (graphs of sound waves). Therefore, visual representations and visual practices, in all forms, are an important aspect of the scientific practices in developing, clarifying, and transmitting scientific knowledge (Pauwels 2006 ).

Methods and Results: Merging Visualization and scientific practices in science

In this paper, we present three case studies that embody the working practices of scientists in an effort to present visualization as a scientific practice and present our argument about how visualization is a complex process that could include among others modeling and use of representation but is not only limited to that. The first case study explores the role of visualization in the construction of knowledge about the structure of DNA, using visuals as evidence. The second case study focuses on Faraday’s use of the lines of magnetic force and the visual reasoning leading to the theoretical development that was an inherent part of the experimentation. The third case study focuses on the current practices of scientists in the context of a peer-reviewed journal called the Journal of Visualized Experiments where the methodology is communicated through videotaped procedures. The three case studies represent the research interests of the three authors of this paper and were chosen to present how visualization as a practice can be involved in all stages of doing science, from hypothesizing and evaluating evidence (case study 1) to experimenting and reasoning (case study 2) to communicating the findings and methodology with the research community (case study 3), and represent in this way the three functions of visualization as presented by Lynch ( 2006 ). Furthermore, the last case study showcases how the development of visualization technologies has contributed to the communication of findings and methodologies in science and present in that way an aspect of current scientific practices. In all three cases, our approach is guided by the observation that the visual information is an integral part of scientific practices at the least and furthermore that they are particularly central in the scientific practices of science.

Case study 1: use visual representations as evidence in the discovery of DNA

The focus of the first case study is the discovery of the structure of DNA. The DNA was first isolated in 1869 by Friedrich Miescher, and by the late 1940s, it was known that it contained phosphate, sugar, and four nitrogen-containing chemical bases. However, no one had figured the structure of the DNA until Watson and Crick presented their model of DNA in 1953. Other than the social aspects of the discovery of the DNA, another important aspect was the role of visual evidence that led to knowledge development in the area. More specifically, by studying the personal accounts of Watson ( 1968 ) and Crick ( 1988 ) about the discovery of the structure of the DNA, the following main ideas regarding the role of visual representations in the production of knowledge can be identified: (a) The use of visual representations was an important part of knowledge growth and was often dependent upon the discovery of new technologies (i.e., better microscopes or better techniques in crystallography that would provide better visual representations as evidence of the helical structure of the DNA); and (b) Models (three-dimensional) were used as a way to represent the visual images (X-ray images) and connect them to the evidence provided by other sources to see whether the theory can be supported. Therefore, the model of DNA was built based on the combination of visual evidence and experimental data.

An example showcasing the importance of visual representations in the process of knowledge production in this case is provided by Watson, in his book The Double Helix (1968):

…since the middle of the summer Rosy [Rosalind Franklin] had had evidence for a new three-dimensional form of DNA. It occurred when the DNA 2molecules were surrounded by a large amount of water. When I asked what the pattern was like, Maurice went into the adjacent room to pick up a print of the new form they called the “B” structure. The instant I saw the picture, my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race. The pattern was unbelievably simpler than those previously obtained (A form). Moreover, the black cross of reflections which dominated the picture could arise only from a helical structure. With the A form the argument for the helix was never straightforward, and considerable ambiguity existed as to exactly which type of helical symmetry was present. With the B form however, mere inspection of its X-ray picture gave several of the vital helical parameters. (p. 167-169)

As suggested by Watson’s personal account of the discovery of the DNA, the photo taken by Rosalind Franklin (Fig.  1 ) convinced him that the DNA molecule must consist of two chains arranged in a paired helix, which resembles a spiral staircase or ladder, and on March 7, 1953, Watson and Crick finished and presented their model of the structure of DNA (Watson and Berry 2004 ; Watson 1968 ) which was based on the visual information provided by the X-ray image and their knowledge of chemistry.

X-ray chrystallography of DNA

In analyzing the visualization practice in this case study, we observe the following instances that highlight how the visual information played a role:

Asking questions and defining problems: The real world in the model of science can at some points only be observed through visual representations or representations, i.e., if we are using DNA as an example, the structure of DNA was only observable through the crystallography images produced by Rosalind Franklin in the laboratory. There was no other way to observe the structure of DNA, therefore the real world.

Analyzing and interpreting data: The images that resulted from crystallography as well as their interpretations served as the data for the scientists studying the structure of DNA.

Experimenting: The data in the form of visual information were used to predict the possible structure of the DNA.

Modeling: Based on the prediction, an actual three-dimensional model was prepared by Watson and Crick. The first model did not fit with the real world (refuted by Rosalind Franklin and her research group from King’s College) and Watson and Crick had to go through the same process again to find better visual evidence (better crystallography images) and create an improved visual model.

Example excerpts from Watson’s biography provide further evidence for how visualization practices were applied in the context of the discovery of DNA (Table  1 ).

In summary, by examining the history of the discovery of DNA, we showcased how visual data is used as scientific evidence in science, identifying in that way an aspect of the nature of science that is still unexplored in the history of science and an aspect that has been ignored in the teaching of science. Visual representations are used in many ways: as images, as models, as evidence to support or rebut a model, and as interpretations of reality.

Case study 2: applying visual reasoning in knowledge production, the example of the lines of magnetic force

The focus of this case study is on Faraday’s use of the lines of magnetic force. Faraday is known of his exploratory, creative, and yet systemic way of experimenting, and the visual reasoning leading to theoretical development was an inherent part of this experimentation (Gooding 2006 ). Faraday’s articles or notebooks do not include mathematical formulations; instead, they include images and illustrations from experimental devices and setups to the recapping of his theoretical ideas (Nersessian 2008 ). According to Gooding ( 2006 ), “Faraday’s visual method was designed not to copy apparent features of the world, but to analyse and replicate them” (2006, p. 46).

The lines of force played a central role in Faraday’s research on electricity and magnetism and in the development of his “field theory” (Faraday 1852a ; Nersessian 1984 ). Before Faraday, the experiments with iron filings around magnets were known and the term “magnetic curves” was used for the iron filing patterns and also for the geometrical constructs derived from the mathematical theory of magnetism (Gooding et al. 1993 ). However, Faraday used the lines of force for explaining his experimental observations and in constructing the theory of forces in magnetism and electricity. Examples of Faraday’s different illustrations of lines of magnetic force are given in Fig.  2 . Faraday gave the following experiment-based definition for the lines of magnetic forces:

a Iron filing pattern in case of bar magnet drawn by Faraday (Faraday 1852b , Plate IX, p. 158, Fig. 1), b Faraday’s drawing of lines of magnetic force in case of cylinder magnet, where the experimental procedure, knife blade showing the direction of lines, is combined into drawing (Faraday, 1855, vol. 1, plate 1)

A line of magnetic force may be defined as that line which is described by a very small magnetic needle, when it is so moved in either direction correspondent to its length, that the needle is constantly a tangent to the line of motion; or it is that line along which, if a transverse wire be moved in either direction, there is no tendency to the formation of any current in the wire, whilst if moved in any other direction there is such a tendency; or it is that line which coincides with the direction of the magnecrystallic axis of a crystal of bismuth, which is carried in either direction along it. The direction of these lines about and amongst magnets and electric currents, is easily represented and understood, in a general manner, by the ordinary use of iron filings. (Faraday 1852a , p. 25 (3071))

The definition describes the connection between the experiments and the visual representation of the results. Initially, the lines of force were just geometric representations, but later, Faraday treated them as physical objects (Nersessian 1984 ; Pocovi and Finlay 2002 ):

I have sometimes used the term lines of force so vaguely, as to leave the reader doubtful whether I intended it as a merely representative idea of the forces, or as the description of the path along which the power was continuously exerted. … wherever the expression line of force is taken simply to represent the disposition of forces, it shall have the fullness of that meaning; but that wherever it may seem to represent the idea of the physical mode of transmission of the force, it expresses in that respect the opinion to which I incline at present. The opinion may be erroneous, and yet all that relates or refers to the disposition of the force will remain the same. (Faraday, 1852a , p. 55-56 (3075))

He also felt that the lines of force had greater explanatory power than the dominant theory of action-at-a-distance:

Now it appears to me that these lines may be employed with great advantage to represent nature, condition, direction and comparative amount of the magnetic forces; and that in many cases they have, to the physical reasoned at least, a superiority over that method which represents the forces as concentrated in centres of action… (Faraday, 1852a , p. 26 (3074))

For giving some insight to Faraday’s visual reasoning as an epistemic practice, the following examples of Faraday’s studies of the lines of magnetic force (Faraday 1852a , 1852b ) are presented:

(a) Asking questions and defining problems: The iron filing patterns formed the empirical basis for the visual model: 2D visualization of lines of magnetic force as presented in Fig.  2 . According to Faraday, these iron filing patterns were suitable for illustrating the direction and form of the magnetic lines of force (emphasis added):

It must be well understood that these forms give no indication by their appearance of the relative strength of the magnetic force at different places, inasmuch as the appearance of the lines depends greatly upon the quantity of filings and the amount of tapping; but the direction and forms of these lines are well given, and these indicate, in a considerable degree, the direction in which the forces increase and diminish . (Faraday 1852b , p.158 (3237))

Despite being static and two dimensional on paper, the lines of magnetic force were dynamical (Nersessian 1992 , 2008 ) and three dimensional for Faraday (see Fig.  2 b). For instance, Faraday described the lines of force “expanding”, “bending,” and “being cut” (Nersessian 1992 ). In Fig.  2 b, Faraday has summarized his experiment (bar magnet and knife blade) and its results (lines of force) in one picture.

(b) Analyzing and interpreting data: The model was so powerful for Faraday that he ended up thinking them as physical objects (e.g., Nersessian 1984 ), i.e., making interpretations of the way forces act. Of course, he made a lot of experiments for showing the physical existence of the lines of force, but he did not succeed in it (Nersessian 1984 ). The following quote illuminates Faraday’s use of the lines of force in different situations:

The study of these lines has, at different times, been greatly influential in leading me to various results, which I think prove their utility as well as fertility. Thus, the law of magneto-electric induction; the earth’s inductive action; the relation of magnetism and light; diamagnetic action and its law, and magnetocrystallic action, are the cases of this kind… (Faraday 1852a , p. 55 (3174))

(c) Experimenting: In Faraday's case, he used a lot of exploratory experiments; in case of lines of magnetic force, he used, e.g., iron filings, magnetic needles, or current carrying wires (see the quote above). The magnetic field is not directly observable and the representation of lines of force was a visual model, which includes the direction, form, and magnitude of field.

(d) Modeling: There is no denying that the lines of magnetic force are visual by nature. Faraday’s views of lines of force developed gradually during the years, and he applied and developed them in different contexts such as electromagnetic, electrostatic, and magnetic induction (Nersessian 1984 ). An example of Faraday’s explanation of the effect of the wire b’s position to experiment is given in Fig.  3 . In Fig.  3 , few magnetic lines of force are drawn, and in the quote below, Faraday is explaining the effect using these magnetic lines of force (emphasis added):

Picture of an experiment with different arrangements of wires ( a , b’ , b” ), magnet, and galvanometer. Note the lines of force drawn around the magnet. (Faraday 1852a , p. 34)

It will be evident by inspection of Fig. 3 , that, however the wires are carried away, the general result will, according to the assumed principles of action, be the same; for if a be the axial wire, and b’, b”, b”’ the equatorial wire, represented in three different positions, whatever magnetic lines of force pass across the latter wire in one position, will also pass it in the other, or in any other position which can be given to it. The distance of the wire at the place of intersection with the lines of force, has been shown, by the experiments (3093.), to be unimportant. (Faraday 1852a , p. 34 (3099))

In summary, by examining the history of Faraday’s use of lines of force, we showed how visual imagery and reasoning played an important part in Faraday’s construction and representation of his “field theory”. As Gooding has stated, “many of Faraday’s sketches are far more that depictions of observation, they are tools for reasoning with and about phenomena” (2006, p. 59).

Case study 3: visualizing scientific methods, the case of a journal

The focus of the third case study is the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) , a peer-reviewed publication indexed in PubMed. The journal devoted to the publication of biological, medical, chemical, and physical research in a video format. The journal describes its history as follows:

JoVE was established as a new tool in life science publication and communication, with participation of scientists from leading research institutions. JoVE takes advantage of video technology to capture and transmit the multiple facets and intricacies of life science research. Visualization greatly facilitates the understanding and efficient reproduction of both basic and complex experimental techniques, thereby addressing two of the biggest challenges faced by today's life science research community: i) low transparency and poor reproducibility of biological experiments and ii) time and labor-intensive nature of learning new experimental techniques. ( http://www.jove.com/ )

By examining the journal content, we generate a set of categories that can be considered as indicators of relevance and significance in terms of epistemic practices of science that have relevance for science education. For example, the quote above illustrates how scientists view some norms of scientific practice including the norms of “transparency” and “reproducibility” of experimental methods and results, and how the visual format of the journal facilitates the implementation of these norms. “Reproducibility” can be considered as an epistemic criterion that sits at the heart of what counts as an experimental procedure in science:

Investigating what should be reproducible and by whom leads to different types of experimental reproducibility, which can be observed to play different roles in experimental practice. A successful application of the strategy of reproducing an experiment is an achievement that may depend on certain isiosyncratic aspects of a local situation. Yet a purely local experiment that cannot be carried out by other experimenters and in other experimental contexts will, in the end be unproductive in science. (Sarkar and Pfeifer 2006 , p.270)

We now turn to an article on “Elevated Plus Maze for Mice” that is available for free on the journal website ( http://www.jove.com/video/1088/elevated-plus-maze-for-mice ). The purpose of this experiment was to investigate anxiety levels in mice through behavioral analysis. The journal article consists of a 9-min video accompanied by text. The video illustrates the handling of the mice in soundproof location with less light, worksheets with characteristics of mice, computer software, apparatus, resources, setting up the computer software, and the video recording of mouse behavior on the computer. The authors describe the apparatus that is used in the experiment and state how procedural differences exist between research groups that lead to difficulties in the interpretation of results:

The apparatus consists of open arms and closed arms, crossed in the middle perpendicularly to each other, and a center area. Mice are given access to all of the arms and are allowed to move freely between them. The number of entries into the open arms and the time spent in the open arms are used as indices of open space-induced anxiety in mice. Unfortunately, the procedural differences that exist between laboratories make it difficult to duplicate and compare results among laboratories.

The authors’ emphasis on the particularity of procedural context echoes in the observations of some philosophers of science:

It is not just the knowledge of experimental objects and phenomena but also their actual existence and occurrence that prove to be dependent on specific, productive interventions by the experimenters” (Sarkar and Pfeifer 2006 , pp. 270-271)

The inclusion of a video of the experimental procedure specifies what the apparatus looks like (Fig.  4 ) and how the behavior of the mice is captured through video recording that feeds into a computer (Fig.  5 ). Subsequently, a computer software which captures different variables such as the distance traveled, the number of entries, and the time spent on each arm of the apparatus. Here, there is visual information at different levels of representation ranging from reconfiguration of raw video data to representations that analyze the data around the variables in question (Fig.  6 ). The practice of levels of visual representations is not particular to the biological sciences. For instance, they are commonplace in nanotechnological practices:

Visual illustration of apparatus

Video processing of experimental set-up

Computer software for video input and variable recording

In the visualization processes, instruments are needed that can register the nanoscale and provide raw data, which needs to be transformed into images. Some Imaging Techniques have software incorporated already where this transformation automatically takes place, providing raw images. Raw data must be translated through the use of Graphic Software and software is also used for the further manipulation of images to highlight what is of interest to capture the (inferred) phenomena -- and to capture the reader. There are two levels of choice: Scientists have to choose which imaging technique and embedded software to use for the job at hand, and they will then have to follow the structure of the software. Within such software, there are explicit choices for the scientists, e.g. about colour coding, and ways of sharpening images. (Ruivenkamp and Rip 2010 , pp.14–15)

On the text that accompanies the video, the authors highlight the role of visualization in their experiment:

Visualization of the protocol will promote better understanding of the details of the entire experimental procedure, allowing for standardization of the protocols used in different laboratories and comparisons of the behavioral phenotypes of various strains of mutant mice assessed using this test.

The software that takes the video data and transforms it into various representations allows the researchers to collect data on mouse behavior more reliably. For instance, the distance traveled across the arms of the apparatus or the time spent on each arm would have been difficult to observe and record precisely. A further aspect to note is how the visualization of the experiment facilitates control of bias. The authors illustrate how the olfactory bias between experimental procedures carried on mice in sequence is avoided by cleaning the equipment.

Our discussion highlights the role of visualization in science, particularly with respect to presenting visualization as part of the scientific practices. We have used case studies from the history of science highlighting a scientist’s account of how visualization played a role in the discovery of DNA and the magnetic field and from a contemporary illustration of a science journal’s practices in incorporating visualization as a way to communicate new findings and methodologies. Our implicit aim in drawing from these case studies was the need to align science education with scientific practices, particularly in terms of how visual representations, stable or dynamic, can engage students in the processes of science and not only to be used as tools for cognitive development in science. Our approach was guided by the notion of “knowledge-as-practice” as advanced by Knorr Cetina ( 1999 ) who studied scientists and characterized their knowledge as practice, a characterization which shifts focus away from ideas inside scientists’ minds to practices that are cultural and deeply contextualized within fields of science. She suggests that people working together can be examined as epistemic cultures whose collective knowledge exists as practice.

It is important to stress, however, that visual representations are not used in isolation, but are supported by other types of evidence as well, or other theories (i.e., in order to understand the helical form of DNA, or the structure, chemistry knowledge was needed). More importantly, this finding can also have implications when teaching science as argument (e.g., Erduran and Jimenez-Aleixandre 2008 ), since the verbal evidence used in the science classroom to maintain an argument could be supported by visual evidence (either a model, representation, image, graph, etc.). For example, in a group of students discussing the outcomes of an introduced species in an ecosystem, pictures of the species and the ecosystem over time, and videos showing the changes in the ecosystem, and the special characteristics of the different species could serve as visual evidence to help the students support their arguments (Evagorou et al. 2012 ). Therefore, an important implication for the teaching of science is the use of visual representations as evidence in the science curriculum as part of knowledge production. Even though studies in the area of science education have focused on the use of models and modeling as a way to support students in the learning of science (Dori et al. 2003 ; Lehrer and Schauble 2012 ; Mendonça and Justi 2013 ; Papaevripidou et al. 2007 ) or on the use of images (i.e., Korfiatis et al. 2003 ), with the term using visuals as evidence, we refer to the collection of all forms of visuals and the processes involved.

Another aspect that was identified through the case studies is that of the visual reasoning (an integral part of Faraday’s investigations). Both the verbalization and visualization were part of the process of generating new knowledge (Gooding 2006 ). Even today, most of the textbooks use the lines of force (or just field lines) as a geometrical representation of field, and the number of field lines is connected to the quantity of flux. Often, the textbooks use the same kind of visual imagery than in what is used by scientists. However, when using images, only certain aspects or features of the phenomena or data are captured or highlighted, and often in tacit ways. Especially in textbooks, the process of producing the image is not presented and instead only the product—image—is left. This could easily lead to an idea of images (i.e., photos, graphs, visual model) being just representations of knowledge and, in the worse case, misinterpreted representations of knowledge as the results of Pocovi and Finlay ( 2002 ) in case of electric field lines show. In order to avoid this, the teachers should be able to explain how the images are produced (what features of phenomena or data the images captures, on what ground the features are chosen to that image, and what features are omitted); in this way, the role of visualization in knowledge production can be made “visible” to students by engaging them in the process of visualization.

The implication of these norms for science teaching and learning is numerous. The classroom contexts can model the generation, sharing and evaluation of evidence, and experimental procedures carried out by students, thereby promoting not only some contemporary cultural norms in scientific practice but also enabling the learning of criteria, standards, and heuristics that scientists use in making decisions on scientific methods. As we have demonstrated with the three case studies, visual representations are part of the process of knowledge growth and communication in science, as demonstrated with two examples from the history of science and an example from current scientific practices. Additionally, visual information, especially with the use of technology is a part of students’ everyday lives. Therefore, we suggest making use of students’ knowledge and technological skills (i.e., how to produce their own videos showing their experimental method or how to identify or provide appropriate visual evidence for a given topic), in order to teach them the aspects of the nature of science that are often neglected both in the history of science and the design of curriculum. Specifically, what we suggest in this paper is that students should actively engage in visualization processes in order to appreciate the diverse nature of doing science and engage in authentic scientific practices.

However, as a word of caution, we need to distinguish the products and processes involved in visualization practices in science:

If one considers scientific representations and the ways in which they can foster or thwart our understanding, it is clear that a mere object approach, which would devote all attention to the representation as a free-standing product of scientific labor, is inadequate. What is needed is a process approach: each visual representation should be linked with its context of production (Pauwels 2006 , p.21).

The aforementioned suggests that the emphasis in visualization should shift from cognitive understanding—using the products of science to understand the content—to engaging in the processes of visualization. Therefore, an implication for the teaching of science includes designing curriculum materials and learning environments that create a social and epistemic context and invite students to engage in the practice of visualization as evidence, reasoning, experimental procedure, or a means of communication (as presented in the three case studies) and reflect on these practices (Ryu et al. 2015 ).

Finally, a question that arises from including visualization in science education, as well as from including scientific practices in science education is whether teachers themselves are prepared to include them as part of their teaching (Bybee 2014 ). Teacher preparation programs and teacher education have been critiqued, studied, and rethought since the time they emerged (Cochran-Smith 2004 ). Despite the years of history in teacher training and teacher education, the debate about initial teacher training and its content still pertains in our community and in policy circles (Cochran-Smith 2004 ; Conway et al. 2009 ). In the last decades, the debate has shifted from a behavioral view of learning and teaching to a learning problem—focusing on that way not only on teachers’ knowledge, skills, and beliefs but also on making the connection of the aforementioned with how and if pupils learn (Cochran-Smith 2004 ). The Science Education in Europe report recommended that “Good quality teachers, with up-to-date knowledge and skills, are the foundation of any system of formal science education” (Osborne and Dillon 2008 , p.9).

However, questions such as what should be the emphasis on pre-service and in-service science teacher training, especially with the new emphasis on scientific practices, still remain unanswered. As Bybee ( 2014 ) argues, starting from the new emphasis on scientific practices in the NGSS, we should consider teacher preparation programs “that would provide undergraduates opportunities to learn the science content and practices in contexts that would be aligned with their future work as teachers” (p.218). Therefore, engaging pre- and in-service teachers in visualization as a scientific practice should be one of the purposes of teacher preparation programs.

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Sibel Erduran

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Terhi Mäntylä

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ME carried out the introductory literature review, the analysis of the first case study, and drafted the manuscript. SE carried out the analysis of the third case study and contributed towards the “Conclusions” section of the manuscript. TM carried out the second case study. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Evagorou, M., Erduran, S. & Mäntylä, T. The role of visual representations in scientific practices: from conceptual understanding and knowledge generation to ‘seeing’ how science works. IJ STEM Ed 2 , 11 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-015-0024-x

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  • Visual representations
  • Epistemic practices
  • Science learning

visual representation ideas

Initial Thoughts

Perspectives & resources, what is high-quality mathematics instruction and why is it important.

  • Page 1: The Importance of High-Quality Mathematics Instruction
  • Page 2: A Standards-Based Mathematics Curriculum
  • Page 3: Evidence-Based Mathematics Practices

What evidence-based mathematics practices can teachers employ?

  • Page 4: Explicit, Systematic Instruction

Page 5: Visual Representations

  • Page 6: Schema Instruction
  • Page 7: Metacognitive Strategies
  • Page 8: Effective Classroom Practices
  • Page 9: References & Additional Resources
  • Page 10: Credits

Teacher at board with student

Research Shows

  • Students who use accurate visual representations are six times more likely to correctly solve mathematics problems than are students who do not use them. However, students who use inaccurate visual representations are less likely to correctly solve mathematics problems than those who do not use visual representations at all. (Boonen, van Wesel, Jolles, & van der Schoot, 2014)
  • Students with a learning disability (LD) often do not create accurate visual representations or use them strategically to solve problems. Teaching students to systematically use a visual representation to solve word problems has led to substantial improvements in math achievement for students with learning disabilities. (van Garderen, Scheuermann, & Jackson, 2012; van Garderen, Scheuermann, & Poch, 2014)
  • Students who use visual representations to solve word problems are more likely to solve the problems accurately. This was equally true for students who had LD, were low-achieving, or were average-achieving. (Krawec, 2014)

Visual representations are flexible; they can be used across grade levels and types of math problems. They can be used by teachers to teach mathematics facts and by students to learn mathematics content. Visual representations can take a number of forms. Click on the links below to view some of the visual representations most commonly used by teachers and students.

How does this practice align?

High-leverage practice (hlp).

  • HLP15 : Provide scaffolded supports

CCSSM: Standards for Mathematical Practice

  • MP1 : Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Number Lines

Definition : A straight line that shows the order of and the relation between numbers.

Common Uses : addition, subtraction, counting

number lines

Strip Diagrams

Definition : A bar divided into rectangles that accurately represent quantities noted in the problem.

Common Uses : addition, fractions, proportions, ratios

strip diagram

Definition : Simple drawings of concrete or real items (e.g., marbles, trucks).

Common Uses : counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division



Definition : Drawings that depict information using lines, shapes, and colors.

Common Uses : comparing numbers, statistics, ratios, algebra

graphs and charts

Graphic Organizers

Definition : Visual that assists students in remembering and organizing information, as well as depicting the relationships between ideas (e.g., word webs, tables, Venn diagrams).

Common Uses : algebra, geometry

Before they can solve problems, however, students must first know what type of visual representation to create and use for a given mathematics problem. Some students—specifically, high-achieving students, gifted students—do this automatically, whereas others need to be explicitly taught how. This is especially the case for students who struggle with mathematics and those with mathematics learning disabilities. Without explicit, systematic instruction on how to create and use visual representations, these students often create visual representations that are disorganized or contain incorrect or partial information. Consider the examples below.

Elementary Example

Mrs. Aldridge ask her first-grade students to add 2 + 4 by drawing dots.

talias drawing of two plus four

Notice that Talia gets the correct answer. However, because Colby draws his dots in haphazard fashion, he fails to count all of them and consequently arrives at the wrong solution.

High School Example

Mr. Huang asks his students to solve the following word problem:

The flagpole needs to be replaced. The school would like to replace it with the same size pole. When Juan stands 11 feet from the base of the pole, the angle of elevation from Juan’s feet to the top of the pole is 70 degrees. How tall is the pole?

Compare the drawings below created by Brody and Zoe to represent this problem. Notice that Brody drew an accurate representation and applied the correct strategy. In contrast, Zoe drew a picture with partially correct information. The 11 is in the correct place, but the 70° is not. As a result of her inaccurate representation, Zoe is unable to move forward and solve the problem. However, given an accurate representation developed by someone else, Zoe is more likely to solve the problem correctly.

brodys drawing


Some students will not be able to grasp mathematics skills and concepts using only the types of visual representations noted in the table above. Very young children and students who struggle with mathematics often require different types of visual representations known as manipulatives. These concrete, hands-on materials and objects—for example, an abacus or coins—help students to represent the mathematical idea they are trying to learn or the problem they are attempting to solve. Manipulatives can help students develop a conceptual understanding of mathematical topics. (For the purpose of this module, the term concrete objects refers to manipulatives and the term visual representations refers to schematic diagrams.)

It is important that the teacher make explicit the connection between the concrete object and the abstract concept being taught. The goal is for the student to eventually understand the concepts and procedures without the use of manipulatives. For secondary students who struggle with mathematics, teachers should show the abstract along with the concrete or visual representation and explicitly make the connection between them.

A move from concrete objects or visual representations to using abstract equations can be difficult for some students. One strategy teachers can use to help students systematically transition among concrete objects, visual representations, and abstract equations is the Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) framework.

If you would like to learn more about this framework, click here.

Concrete-Representational-Abstract Framework

boy with manipulative number board

  • Concrete —Students interact and manipulate three-dimensional objects, for example algebra tiles or other algebra manipulatives with representations of variables and units.
  • Representational — Students use two-dimensional drawings to represent problems. These pictures may be presented to them by the teacher, or through the curriculum used in the class, or students may draw their own representation of the problem.
  • Abstract — Students solve problems with numbers, symbols, and words without any concrete or representational assistance.

CRA is effective across all age levels and can assist students in learning concepts, procedures, and applications. When implementing each component, teachers should use explicit, systematic instruction and continually monitor student work to assess their understanding, asking them questions about their thinking and providing clarification as needed. Concrete and representational activities must reflect the actual process of solving the problem so that students are able to generalize the process to solve an abstract equation. The illustration below highlights each of these components.

concrete pencils, representational count by marks, abstract numerals

For Your Information

One promising practice for moving secondary students with mathematics difficulties or disabilities from the use of manipulatives and visual representations to the abstract equation quickly is the CRA-I strategy . In this modified version of CRA, the teacher simultaneously presents the content using concrete objects, visual representations of the concrete objects, and the abstract equation. Studies have shown that this framework is effective for teaching algebra to this population of students (Strickland & Maccini, 2012; Strickland & Maccini, 2013; Strickland, 2017).

Kim Paulsen discusses the benefits of manipulatives and a number of things to keep in mind when using them (time: 2:35).

Kim Paulsen, EdD Associate Professor, Special Education Vanderbilt University

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kim paulsen

Transcript: Kim Paulsen, EdD

Manipulatives are a great way of helping kids understand conceptually. The use of manipulatives really helps students see that conceptually, and it clicks a little more with them. Some of the things, though, that we need to remember when we’re using manipulatives is that it is important to give students a little bit of free time when you’re using a new manipulative so that they can just explore with them. We need to have specific rules for how to use manipulatives, that they aren’t toys, that they really are learning materials, and how students pick them up, how they put them away, the right time to use them, and making sure that they’re not distracters while we’re actually doing the presentation part of the lesson. One of the important things is that we don’t want students to memorize the algorithm or the procedures while they’re using the manipulatives. It really is just to help them understand conceptually. That doesn’t mean that kids are automatically going to understand conceptually or be able to make that bridge between using the concrete manipulatives into them being able to solve the problems. For some kids, it is difficult to use the manipulatives. That’s not how they learn, and so we don’t want to force kids to have to use manipulatives if it’s not something that is helpful for them. So we have to remember that manipulatives are one way to think about teaching math.

I think part of the reason that some teachers don’t use them is because it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of organization, and they also feel that students get too reliant on using manipulatives. One way to think about using manipulatives is that you do it a couple of lessons when you’re teaching a new concept, and then take those away so that students are able to do just the computation part of it. It is true we can’t walk around life with manipulatives in our hands. And I think one of the other reasons that a lot of schools or teachers don’t use manipulatives is because they’re very expensive. And so it’s very helpful if all of the teachers in the school can pool resources and have a manipulative room where teachers can go check out manipulatives so that it’s not so expensive. Teachers have to know how to use them, and that takes a lot of practice.

Unlock the power of visual thinking with visual thinking strategies

Create beautiful charts & infographics get started, 13.06.2023 by anete ezera.

Most people are visual learners . According to research , we identify, process, and understand visual information more efficiently than text. That’s one of many reasons why infographics are used to convey information effectively, using images, symbols, and data visualizations. It also explains why it’s difficult for many people to stay focused during a dry lecture or learn only by reading books. Embracing visual thinking can significantly enhance learning and understanding. Visual thinking is a cognitive process that utilizes visual and spatial representations to organize, process, and comprehend information. It harnesses the power of visuals to enhance creativity, problem-solving, and communication. This article explores the concept of visual thinking, its strategies, benefits, and how it compares to verbal thinking. Additionally, we delve into the significance of design as thinking made visual and highlight how Infogram, a data visualization tool, can complement visual thinkers’ capabilities.

Click to jump ahead: What is visual thinking? Visual thinking strategies 1. Mind mapping 2. Storyboarding 3. Visual note-taking Visual thinking examples

A man working on a graphic design

What is visual thinking?

Visual thinking refers to the mental process of constructing and manipulating visual images in the mind’s eye. It involves the use of diagrams, sketches, symbols, and other visual tools to represent and manipulate information. Visual thinking enables individuals to better perceive, analyze, and synthesize complex ideas and concepts.

Visual thinking vs. verbal thinking

Verbal thinking and visual thinking are two distinct cognitive processes that help to perceive, process, and communicate information. As previously stated, visual thinking involves the use of mental images, spatial relationships, and visual representations to analyze and understand concepts. It allows individuals to think in pictures and patterns, enabling them to generate creative solutions, recognize visual cues, and engage in imaginative problem-solving.

On the other hand, verbal thinking relies predominantly on linguistic skills, utilizing words, language, and logical reasoning to process information. Verbal thinkers excel in analytical tasks, critical thinking, and articulating their thoughts through language. Both visual and verbal thinking are valuable cognitive styles, each offering unique strengths and preferences in how individuals perceive and interpret the world around them. By recognizing and embracing the power of both visual and verbal thinking, individuals can tap into a broader range of cognitive abilities and enhance their overall problem-solving and communication skills.

A man in a sunny home office writes on a white board with a marker.

Visual thinking strategies

If you seek to improve your learning and understanding process or you want to convey information more effectively ( marketing , advertising, teaching), look out for visual thinking strategies. Visual thinking strategies encompass various techniques that facilitate the application of visual thinking. Some of the most common visual thinking strategies are mind mapping, concept mapping, storyboarding, and visual note-taking. By employing these methods, you can organize information, identify relationships, and generate new insights.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a visual thinking and note-taking technique that involves creating a hierarchical diagram to represent ideas, concepts, and their relationships. It is a powerful tool for brainstorming, organizing thoughts, and enhancing creativity.

Key aspects of mind mapping

  • Central idea: A mind map begins with a central idea or topic placed in the center of the page or screen. It serves as the focal point from which all other ideas radiate.
  • Branches and sub-branches: The central idea is connected to branches, which represent major themes or categories related to the topic. Each branch can then be further expanded into sub-branches, representing more specific concepts or details.
  • Keywords and visual elements: Mind maps utilize keywords and short phrases to capture the essence of ideas. Visual elements such as icons, symbols, colors, and images can also be incorporated to enhance understanding, stimulate memory, and add visual appeal.
  • Non-linear structure: Unlike traditional note-taking methods, mind maps follow a non-linear structure. Ideas can be added, modified, or expanded anywhere on the map, allowing for flexibility and the exploration of different connections and perspectives.

Mind mapping benefits

  • Enhanced creativity: Mind mapping stimulates creativity by encouraging free-flowing associations and connections between ideas. It enables individuals to explore new possibilities and generate innovative solutions to problems.
  • Improved comprehension and retention: Mind maps utilize visual-spatial representation, making information more memorable and easier to understand. The visual layout helps the brain organize and connect concepts, aiding in comprehension and long-term retention.
  • Efficient organization: Mind maps provide a clear overview of complex information, allowing for easy identification of key ideas, relationships, and hierarchies. They help individuals structure their thoughts and present information in a concise and organized manner.
  • Collaborative tool: Mind maps can be used as collaborative tools for group discussions, brainstorming sessions, and project planning. They promote effective communication, facilitate idea sharing, and foster teamwork.
  • Versatility: Mind maps can be applied to various tasks and disciplines, including education, project management, problem-solving, and personal organization. They can be created on paper, whiteboards, or using digital mind mapping software.

In summary, mind mapping is a flexible and effective technique that harnesses the power of visualization to enhance creativity, comprehension, and organization. By capturing and organizing ideas in a non-linear and visually engaging format, mind mapping helps individuals explore and communicate complex concepts with clarity and efficiency.

If you want to make your own mind map, you can easily create it using Infogram. Simply select a blank canvas and start creating. Use images , connectors, animations , data visualizations, and more to visualize your concepts and ideas. Get inspired by mind mapping examples here.


Storyboarding is a visual thinking and planning technique commonly used in various creative fields such as film, animation, advertising, and design. It involves creating a series of sequential visual panels or sketches that depict the key moments, actions, and compositions of a story or project.

Key aspects of storyboarding

  • Visualizing the story: Storyboarding involves visually depicting the key moments, scenes, and compositions of a story or project. It serves as a visual representation of how the narrative unfolds, allowing creators to visualize and plan the sequence of events.
  • Sequential panels: Storyboards consist of a series of sequential panels or frames that depict specific moments in the story. Each panel represents a key action, shot, or scene, and they are arranged in a linear sequence to reflect the progression of the story.
  • Action and movement: Storyboards illustrate the action and movement within each scene. They depict the characters’ poses, gestures, and expressions, as well as the flow of movement from one frame to another. This helps convey the dynamics and pacing of the story.
  • Visual styling and aesthetics: Storyboards may also incorporate visual styling elements to indicate the desired aesthetics, mood, or visual effects. This can include color schemes, lighting references, or references to specific visual references or inspirations.
  • Pre-visualization: Storyboarding serves as a pre-visualization tool, allowing creators to assess the visual flow and overall coherence of the story before the actual production begins. It helps identify any potential issues or adjustments needed, saving time and resources during the production phase.

Storyboarding purposes

  • Visualizing ideas: Storyboards help translate abstract ideas into concrete visuals. By sketching out scenes and sequences, creators can visualize the overall flow of their story or project, identify gaps or inconsistencies, and make necessary adjustments before committing to a final version.
  • Storytelling and narrative structure: Storyboards enable creators to map out the narrative structure of their project. Each panel represents a specific moment or scene, allowing for a clear visualization of how the story unfolds, including key events, character interactions, and important visual elements.
  • Planning and collaboration: Storyboarding serves as a blueprint for the production process. It helps plan camera angles, shot compositions, and transitions, aiding in efficient resource allocation and coordination among team members. Storyboards also facilitate communication and collaboration by providing a visual reference that all stakeholders can easily understand and discuss.
  • Visualizing visual effects and animation: In fields such as film and animation, storyboarding is crucial for pre-visualizing complex visual effects, action sequences, or animated scenes. It allows for experimenting with different visual techniques, camera movements, and timing, helping artists and directors envision and refine the desired visual aesthetics.

Overall, storyboarding is a powerful visual thinking tool that helps streamline the creative process, communicate ideas effectively, and ensure a cohesive and well-planned outcome for various visual storytelling projects .

visual representation ideas

Visual note-taking

Visual note-taking is a technique that combines words and visuals to capture and represent information during lectures, presentations, meetings, or other learning experiences. It involves using a combination of drawings, icons, symbols, typography, and organizational structures to visually summarize and illustrate key ideas and concepts.

Key aspects of visual note-taking

  • Visual representation: Visual note-taking emphasizes the use of visuals to complement and enhance written or spoken information. It involves creating quick sketches, diagrams, icons, and other visual elements to represent ideas, objects, processes, and relationships.
  • Selective and simplified content: Visual note-takers selectively capture and summarize information by focusing on key points, essential ideas, and memorable quotes. They use concise wording and visual symbols to distill complex concepts into more digestible and memorable forms.
  • Structural layout: Visual notes often follow a structured layout that helps organize and sequence information. This can include the use of visual frameworks such as mind maps, flowcharts, timelines, or grids to visually arrange content in a logical and coherent manner.
  • Visual hierarchy: Visual note-taking employs visual hierarchy to emphasize the importance and relationships between different elements. This can be achieved through the use of font size, bolding, color coding, arrows, and other visual cues that guide the viewer’s attention and understanding.

Visual note-taking benefits

  • Improved engagement and focus: Visual note-taking promotes active listening and engagement during lectures or presentations. It encourages note-takers to pay closer attention to the content, identify key ideas, and think critically about how to visually represent them.
  • Enhanced comprehension and memory: Visual notes combine the power of visuals and text, making information more memorable and easier to understand. The use of visuals aids in visual-spatial learning, which can enhance comprehension and retention of the information being captured.
  • Creativity and personal expression: Visual note-taking allows individuals to infuse their personal style, creativity, and interpretation into their notes. It provides a creative outlet for expressing ideas and insights in a visually appealing and unique way.
  • Effective communication and sharing: Visual notes can be easily shared with others to convey complex information in a concise and engaging manner. They serve as visual summaries that capture the essence of a topic, making it easier to communicate ideas, teach others, or revisit information at a glance.

Visual note-taking is a versatile technique that can be adapted to various learning and professional contexts. Whether done on paper or digitally using note-taking apps or tablets, visual note-taking offers a dynamic and visually stimulating approach to capturing and retaining information. Check out a few examples of visual note-taking below. You can easily create these and other types of visual notes using Infogram. Either create them from scratch or use a pre-designed template and fill in the information. 

Visual Thinking Examples

Visual thinking finds application in various fields, including education, business, science, and design. Here are a few examples of visual thinking in practice. These include using mind maps to outline ideas, creating visual presentations to engage audiences, employing flowcharts to analyze processes, and utilizing infographics to convey complex data in an accessible manner.

Slide-based presentation templates 

Flowchart templates, infographic templates, infogram: empowering visual thinkers.

Visual thinking is a valuable cognitive process that leverages the power of visuals to enhance understanding, problem-solving, and communication. By utilizing visual thinking strategies and embracing design as thinking made visual, individuals can tap into their creative potential and generate innovative solutions. If you’re looking for a tool that would support you in creating engaging and informative visual content, try Infogram. With a user-friendly interface and a wide range of customizable templates, you can transform complex data sets into compelling visuals such as charts, graphs, maps , and infographics . By leveraging Infogram, you can enhance your ability to convey ideas visually and effectively communicate information to your target audience. Try it out today and start creating impactful visuals! 

Interested in discovering how Infogram can enhance your team’s work? Join a brief Zoom session with our Infogram representative to explore key features, get answers to your questions, and understand how we can assist. It’s quick, informative, and just like a coffee break chat. Schedule your call now!

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Visual Representation Ideas From Physics

Home > Presentation Ideas >  Presentation Graphics > Visual Representation Ideas

Here are some visual ways to represent business ideas inspired by my son’s Physics text book. Visual ideas are all around us, if only we have the mind to look for them.

Sources for visual representation of business ideas:

One of the common questions we get in our ‘Visual presentations workshops’ is – “Where can we get the inspiration for visualizing business ideas?”

Our answer has always been – “Look around – you will find your inspiration”. We practice the philosophy all the time.

One day, as I was browsing through my son’s physics text book – I found a wealth of wonderful concepts that I could apply directly to a business situation. This article is a result of that inspiration.

Example 1: Property of a bi-convex lens

A simple bi-convex lens focuses light rays to a specific point.  I am sure you’ve done experiments, like focusing sun’s rays on a piece of cotton using a magnifying glass (a biconvex lens). The power of focus is such that cotton burns in a few moments.

That simple scientific fact led us to create this useful diagram template:

The diagram can be used to explain the power of collective vision. When different departments in a company work together under a collective vision, no target is unachievable.

Just by including the visual of a target, we converted a ray diagram in physics to a business diagram template.

Related:  3D target diagram tutorial

Example 2: Property of a prism

The next subject in the text book was about prisms. A prism is used to split light into its components.

I found the idea quite suited to a corporate environment and we created this diagram template:

The diagram helps you explain the role of a leader in assigning tasks to a team. Instead of assigning tasks arbitrarily, let your ‘team goal’ be the guiding prism to determine the tasks that need to be assigned to accomplish the goal.

Related: Using Visual Metaphor in PowerPoint

Example 3: The power of pulleys

A pulley is a wheel on an axle. When used in tandem, pulleys can help you lift astonishing amount of weights with minimum effort.

This seemed a perfect concept to showcase the power of team work in an organization. So, we created this useful diagram template:

Just as pulleys lift astonishing weights by working in tandem and distributing the load equally, a good team can achieve the impossible by working in synergy.

Related: More Concept Ideas from PowerPoint CEO Pack

Inference about visual representation:

We have all read so many scientific concepts and principles in our schools. We never bothered to see their application in a corporate environment.

When you spend a little time to think, you would be amazed to find the number of principles that help you visualize your business ideas and concepts in a presentation.

Inspiration for business presenters:

Sometimes, it is not easy to get enough inspiration to visualize innovative concepts for your business presentations. Do go through the articles in this visual presentations section to find more ideas for your next presentation.

Related: Useful PowerPoint Concepts: Lock and Key Diagram

Related: Using Visual Metaphors for Business Concepts

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Making a ted-ed lesson: visualizing complex ideas.


891 Questions Answered

Let’s Begin…

How can animation convey complex, intangible concepts? A visual metaphor, or an idea represented through imagery, can take an idea as massive as Big Data and tie it to the familiar depiction of a growing tree. TED-Ed animators explain how to make an abstract idea come alive visually.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

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Concepts  is an infinite, flexible creative tool for all your good ideas. Available on iOS, Windows and Android.

Visually Minded: Drawing and Presenting Ideas as Sketchnotes

Visual thinker and Sketchnoter Jonny Daenen shares techniques for drawing and organizing graphic presentations and sketchnotes for ideas you are passionate about.

visual representation ideas

"Pouring your information into a visual representation has the benefit of making ideas tangible. It motivates people to have a conversation or discussion about it. It's also a lot easier to spread information this way, as pictures have the power to create a lasting impression within an instant."

Jonny Daenen - My background lies in Big Data. I got my Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2016, after focusing on big data systems for several years. Currently, I am a Cloud data engineer at a marketing automation company. It's incredible to think about the vast amounts of data we generate daily and all the things we can do with it. I see myself as someone who designs and builds solutions for creating value from this enormous pool of data.

I love learning about technology and then applying   or spreading   the knowledge. The latter is something I've picked up during my time as a teaching assistant. It's a great feeling when you are able to teach new concepts to people who are eager to learn. At the same time, when you explain an idea to someone else, you'd better make sure you understand it thoroughly first! During my career, I've discovered that visualizations are a key component in teaching, discussing, and pitching ideas. It helps me to understand what's going on and transfer information to someone else.  

How did you get into visual thinking and sketchnoting?

Great question! I've been fond of doodling for a long time, and I think this is where my urge to draw comes from. I remember a history course in high school, where we had to memorize quite some information, for example, about agriculture in historical times. As I was not keen on learning by heart, I decided to draw logical pictures containing all the elements. A doodle with cows and crops made it so much easier to understand and remember. 

Fast forward to my Ph.D., and I'm still drawing and doodling. Only this time, I'm using the blackboard to pass on ideas to students. At some point, during a TEDx event, I also saw people making sketchnotes live on stage and followed an introduction to sketchnoting. Packed with quite some ideas, I gradually started to adopt them into my daily routines.

During my career, I noticed that I liked capturing information, and started leveraging these visual techniques more and more. Today, I am applying them to create presentations, technical diagrams, and summaries of Apple product presentations. I've also decided to go fully digital.

visual representation ideas

One of my first attempts to draw a high level diagram, created in Papers.

Can you please share what visual thinking and sketchnoting are? How does visualization help you to remember and share ideas?

In my mind, visual thinking is about capturing the essence of "things" - systems, products, technologies, ideas, etc. - in a visual image. It helps us to understand problems, enabling a zooming out to abstract concepts, and a zooming in on all the nitty-gritty details when needed.

Sketchnoting is the art of visual note taking. A keynote, presentation, event, manual, technology, etc. can all be summarized visually. This helps to make topics more approachable and digestible.

My main purposes for sketchnoting are to capture information for later reference, evangelize ideas, and learn more about a topic. While I draw, my mind focuses on the matter at hand, helping me understand things better and allowing me to easily remember them. People have responded quite well when I share my sketchnote summaries or when they see drawings appear in a slide deck. It seems to be a very powerful method to get a message across.

visual representation ideas

One of the first drawings I did in Concepts that shows the basic components in marketing. This was used in multiple presentations.

Pouring your information into a visual representation has the benefit of making ideas tangible. It motivates people to have a conversation or discussion about it. It's also a lot easier to spread information this way, as pictures have the power to create a lasting impression within an instant. 

In software engineering, for example, I find it really helpful to have a diagram of what I'm working on. It helps me navigate code and allows easy communication with other people. It is vital to have a bird's eye view of what you are working on while still understanding the details of the code in front of you. Especially when you get confronted with bugs, visual thinking is helpful and allows you to more quickly approach the problems at hand in a structural fashion.

And whether it helps me remember things? Well, yes and no. On the contrary, it helps me free my mind. While I draw, I think about the structure and properties of what I'm drawing. I'm comparing similar technologies, zooming in and out in my mind while I pinch on the screen, and discovering logical concepts as I progress. This process helps me better understand whatever I'm sketchnoting about. 

Still, at the same time, my brain will also know that all the details are in my sketchnote for reference, and it seems it will forget about unnecessary details and instead store a pointer to the sketchnote. Next time I need to recall the price of the iPad Pro in 2020? Or the technology that Spotify talked about to manage their data quality? My brain will know that I noted that down in a specific sketchnote and present me with a vague layout of what my drawing looked like.  

You have very informative sketchnotes with a clear presentation style. How do you go about visualizing ideas and data? What creates a clear presentation?

Thank you! Visual representations should capture the essence of an idea, product, technology, etc. as much as possible. When sketchnoting an event, I start from the bottom up: starting with the details, clustering them into bigger ideas, and attaching these to a bigger topic. It's a hierarchical approach, which should help viewers quickly identify relevant information while also allowing for fast zooming from specific details to the more abstract topic.

For slide decks, this is a bit different. Here I start working around the main takeaway, outline a structure in a mindmap and translate individual slides into drawings during the process.

Presentations or sketchnotes should provide a logical flow of information; they should guide the viewer. In presentations, you get a linear flow, which can sometimes feel quite restrictive but at the same time also more reassuring. In sketchnotes, you get a lot more freedom, but the challenging part is in the overall flow of your drawing to make sure people can find their way in it.

One big difference between presentations and sketchnotes: in presentations, the visuals support the story; in sketchnotes, the visuals are the story.

visual representation ideas

A sketchnote for a live show of the Dutch-Belgian podcast Tech45 , to celebrate their 10 year anniversary.

Once you have your key ideas down, how do you organize your information on the page?  

I try to group information into clusters that belong together. If I'm making a sketchnote of an Apple keynote about a new iPhone, Apple Watch, and health services, I will cluster the information accordingly. Many presentations and events already have an implicit or explicit structure that is quite usable as a guiding structure.

When you are creating larger sketchnotes that span multiple presentations or many topics, I'd recommend collecting information first and then choosing what your focus will be. This is a lot more challenging but can be even more rewarding as you will learn a lot by creating this structure yourself.  Whenever I'm stuck, I always resort to creating a mindmap of the structure. This will be my guide and help me make decisions about what content goes where.

visual representation ideas

My latest Apple sketchnote: WWDC 2021. Heaps of new products and features were announced, I tried to combine it all in this gigantic sketchnote.

What are your favorite tools and apps for sketchnoting? 

Concepts, of course! I do have some real-world Copic markers that I use for decorating Christmas or birthday cards, but in the digital world, Concepts is my tool of choice. My current setup consists of:

  • Apple iPad Pro 10.5"
  • Apple Pencil (1st gen)
  • Concepts App

When my girlfriend introduced me to Concepts, I was immediately sold. The gesture system and the fact that the app is vector-based were ideal for me. I've never considered myself great at drawing, as I always had difficulties getting what's in my head on paper. And even when I did, I managed to add that one final detail that messed it all up. By using Concepts, those limitations in my drawing process were immediately removed. I can now draw joyfully, use quick gestures to rearrange my drawing, and perform the "undo" gesture whenever I need to.

visual representation ideas

A mindmap of all aspects I use Concepts for.

How does Concepts fit into your visual thinking workflow?

My workflow is a bit different depending on when I'm creating a presentation with hand-drawn slides or when I'm making a sketchnote.

In the case of a presentation, I start out with a mindmap. I use the MindNode app to brainstorm, group, and structure my story. When roughly 70% of my story and content ideas are there, I pour this mindmap into slides with textual content. Next, the most essential and complex slides get their own drawing (drawn in Concepts); the text is reduced to a minimum, as I will talk over it anyway, but the essence remains. Finally, I start doing dry-runs, and I iterate over the slides and drawings until it feels good. 

For this process, I love working with the combination of an iPad and a Mac: I simply copy-paste a part of my drawing from Concepts on my iPad directly into Keynote on my Mac (using Universal Clipboard).

visual representation ideas

When I create a new sketchnote of a presentation or event, I always follow it live. It forces me to stay focused and capture essential information fast. I will note down text and make some quick doodles; the result looks a bit like a messy shopping list. The big thing here is that Concepts allows me to quickly switch tools and make fast adjustments (select, rearrange, zoom, scale) without interfering with my flow of thought. 

At first, this is where I stopped. While sketchnoting often focuses on getting your drawing done at the moment (especially when it's on paper, you cannot edit easily), I noticed that I needed a bit more freedom and time. 

visual representation ideas

0.1 Apple Spring Loaded Event - first rough version after the live event. 0.2 I added core elements of the most important announcements. 0.3 More visual elements are added to guide the viewer. 0.4 All sections now have a heading to make them stand out, basic highlights were added in orange and spacing has been improved.

So, after the initial rough phase, I start grouping related information together and drawing larger images showing a central topic. For example, I capture all details from a new iPhone camera system live, then I group this together; this is then grouped again with other topics around the iPhone, which is then grouped with maybe another iPhone Model. This is how a specific section in the sketchnote comes to life. 

In my sketchnotes, I try to follow a hierarchical format so that people can quickly get the information they want. Compared to a presentation, which is linear, sketchnotes allow you to create your own flow. When people want information only on that iPhone camera system, they are attracted by the iPhone illustration and can then zoom in on the camera cluster right next to it.

After capturing the overall structure, I fix weird-looking icons and redo some unreadable handwriting. It turns out I still need to work on my 1's, apparently, there seems to be quite a difference across continents on how to write the ideal number one. Next, larger illustrations are added to clusters to make them stand out.

Whenever possible, I try to fit into the event theme. Apple, for example, always has a specific theme in their events, which I try to adopt and mix with my own style. 

Now that I've got all the content, I can focus on the overall layout to end up with a balanced image. I move the bigger groups around and try to create an implicit flow in the picture. Then, I let some key terms stand out using colors, and I add shadows to bring the illustrations alive. Finally, some things I've been dragging along since the beginning get cut. When they just don't fit, they need to go, even if I thought it was a great idea. Kill your darlings, I guess...

When it's done, I export my work at different DPI settings and publish it online. As you can see, as opposed to presentations, all of the work on the sketchnotes happens within Concepts itself.

visual representation ideas

Final version of Apple's Spring Loaded Event.

You mentioned you do a lot of visual communication work with clients. What is your workflow like with them?

When communicating with clients, it's crucial to have a common understanding. Visuals can help a lot; whether you're using a whiteboard, a presentation, or a diagram, it will almost always make conversations easier and more to the point. 

For live discussions, I prefer to use a whiteboard whenever possible; it encourages people to think together and to be part of new ideas from the start.

When I'm preparing a slide deck, my goal is to tell a story that supports the main idea of the presentation. When I explain a technical solution, I try to avoid bombarding the client with too many specifics and instead focus on the value the solution will create for them. This can often be expressed using simple images and icons. In contrast to text, these will often emphasize your point and support your story to a greater extent. Of course, my backup slides will have some more detailed diagrams for the Q&A part.

After meetings with clients or stakeholders, I do not go as far as creating a summary sketchnote for that meeting, but instead, I make a summary mindmap. Again, a very powerful visual tool that allows people to quickly find what they are looking for. I've even found these mindmaps to be a potential replacement for slide decks in some instances: it takes way less time to put them together and immediately shows structure and content in a digestible form when done right.  

Do you have any tips or techniques you can share about visualizing information?

The sketchnotes I create have changed over time. I learned a lot by starting with the Concepts sketchnote tutorial and still using some of the presets today. I've also been inspired by seeing other people create illustrations on my iPad and borrowed some of their techniques. 

I recommend experimenting with colors, quick shadows, smoothing, and nudging. Also, just trying out different tools in the app really helps! But the technique that works best for me is iterating. The sketchnotes I create are refined over several days (sometimes weeks) until I get them into a presentable form.

visual representation ideas

Sketchnote I created when I got certified for Google Cloud, to indicate all important parts included in the certification.

When choosing what to draw, I try to utilize simple illustrations. A battery gets a power icon, performance gets a rocket, and so on. The key is to find something recognizable for most people and keep it clean and simple. When you don't know what could represent an idea, try to think of a few emoji that would capture it.

Sometimes it's tempting to let the visuals distract the viewer too much, hence I believe it is important to try and keep information central to your visual. A good example on how to use a minimalistic approach to emphasize your point visually can be found here: https://www.darkhorseanalytics.com/blog/data-looks-better-naked/  

What are some best practices you can recommend for getting into a visual workflow and improving your skillset?

The first step is finding something you're passionate about. I am passionate about technology, I've been following Apple keynotes for quite some time before I started sketchnoting. The same holds for my new, more technical Google Cloud sketchnotes. After seeing Google's keynotes, I always want to make sure other people have a low-friction way to accessing this content I find so interesting myself.

visual representation ideas

Google Cloud's Data Cloud Summit: summary from a series of presentations, which introduced the latest advancements in Google Cloud Platform w.r.t. data technology.

That is the second step: finding your motivation. Why should you draw? As I said, I love to capture information for later reference, evangelize ideas, and learn more about a topic; drawing helps me achieve these goals. If you can find the thing to motivate you - which can be anything - you're all set!

Once you've found the right topic and motivation, I'd recommend doing the Concepts sketchnoting tutorial . Whether it is for a full sketchnote, a slide in your presentation, or a technical diagram, you'll be ready to go in no time! And remember, when you're not happy with your first result, this is all digital: just iterate over it tomorrow!  

visual representation ideas

Jonny Daenen is a computer scientist specialized in Big Data. He is interested in understanding the inner workings of both existing and new technologies, and loves to make them accessible to a broad audience. He's passionate about data engineering and data science, Cloud computing, visual thinking, and Apple products.

  • Twitter: @JonnyDaenen
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonnydaenen/
  • Website: https://connectingdots.xyz

Cover photos by Michelle Gybels Interview by Erica Christensen


The Concepts Sketchnoting Toolbox - Learn sketchnoting tips so you can sketch ideas and take notes visually, and use this guide to set up your infinite canvas and pens in Concepts.

5 Tools for Visual Thinking on Your iPad - Five great tools to help you take notes, think visually and communicate on your iPad with Concepts.

Sketchnoting Tools and Techniques - Graphic Recorder Tobey Busch shares tips for creating simple visual images and sketchnotes.

Teaching Strategic Thinking Skills to Airforce Pilots - Major John Webb of the U.S. Air Force teaches strategic thinking to pilot students with Concepts and his iPad.

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How to Use Visual Collaboration Tools to Generate Creative Ideas


Brainstorming is a popular technique used by teams looking to come up with a large number of new and innovative ideas quickly and easily. But doing it effectively can be a challenge, especially for remote teams. Visual collaboration tools can make brainstorming easier by providing a shared space where team members can contribute and share their ideas visually. These tools can help to break down barriers, spark new ideas, and facilitate better communication and collaboration.

In this blog post, we will explore how to use visual collaboration tools to brainstorm:

Benefits of Using Visual Collaboration Tools for Brainstorming

Mind mapping, mood boards.

Visual collaboration tools are essential for generating creative ideas. They boost creativity, improve communication, and enable easy sharing, organizing and documenting.

Increased Creativity Visual collaboration tools encourage participants to think visually, fostering creativity by enabling them to explore concepts in different ways. With an infinite canvas like the one offered by Creately, teams have the freedom to expand their creative boundaries further. This dynamic canvas allows for limitless brainstorming possibilities, including visual aids like images, diagrams, and more structured methods such as mind maps, providing a vast and unbounded space for creative thinking.

Pre-Designed Templates Templates offered in a visual collaboration tool can be really helpful in brainstorming and problem-solving processes. These pre-designed frameworks offer a clear starting point, save time and guide the users in a structured process for generating ideas. The visual representation of ideas can help with organizing generated ideas, as well as the thought process during brainstorming. Creately offers a range of brainstorming templates such as Mind Mapping, SWOT Analysis, Affinity diagramming, and more.

Improved Communication and Collaboration Visual collaboration tools go beyond geographical boundaries, enabling teams to collaborate seamlessly, regardless of their physical locations. In a tool like Creately, features like real-time editing, commenting, and spotlighting makes it easier to communicate during brainstorming sessions. This creates a more interactive and collaborative environment, where team members can build on each other’s ideas, leading to more creative solutions.

Sharing and Access Controls Visual collaboration tools provide various sharing options, making it easier to share brainstorming content, and also ensure that the right people have access to the information. Whether it’s sharing a link, inviting specific collaborators, or setting viewing permissions, these tools offer control over who can participate and contribute. In Creately, you can define the sharing capabilities to your team and guests. This promotes information security and accessibility to authorized team members only.

Organizing and Documenting Ideas One of the key advantages of visual collaboration tools like Creately is they serve as a great platform to effectively organize and document ideas generated during brainstorming sessions. Creately’s collaborative whiteboards allow teams to capture ideas in real-time, and with features like sticky notes, shapes, and connectors help document ideas. Creately also provides a folder management system to organize your workspaces with custom sharing permissions.

Types of Visual Collaboration Tools for Brainstorming

There are several types of visual collaboration tools that can be used for brainstorming and idea generation. These tools cater to different needs and preferences, allowing teams to choose the one that best suits their workflows and objectives. Some common types include:

Mind mapping tools help create hierarchical diagrams that represent ideas and concepts in a structured way. These tools are excellent for organizing and visualizing complex ideas during brainstorming sessions.

Mind Mapping using a Visual Collaboration Tool:

  • Create a Central Idea: Start by placing a central idea or topic at the center of your digital canvas within the visual collaboration tool. This idea serves as the focal point for your brainstorming session.
  • Branch Out: Create branches going outward from the central idea. These branches represent major categories or themes related to your topic. For example, if your central idea is “New Product Development,” your branches might include “Features,” “Market Research,” “Budget,” and so on.
  • Add Subtopics: From each major branch, add sub-branches to break down the ideas further. Subtopics can represent specific concepts, tasks, or considerations within each major category. Use text, icons, colors, and shapes to differentiate and highlight different elements.
  • Interconnect Ideas: Use lines or arrows to connect and illustrate relationships or dependencies between different ideas. This helps you visualize how various concepts are interconnected and interdependent.
  • Rearrange and Organize: Visual collaboration tools often provide drag-and-drop functionality, allowing you to easily rearrange and reorganize ideas. This flexibility helps refine and evolve your mind map as the brainstorming session progresses.
  • Add Visuals: Many collaboration tools allow you to incorporate multimedia elements such as images and links into your mind map. This feature can be valuable when brainstorming ideas that involve visuals, references, or external resources.
  • Feedback and Discussion: Use the visual collaboration tool’s communication features, such as comments and spotlight to engage in real-time discussions with team members. This promotes idea refinement and sparks further creativity.
  • Export and Share: Once your mind map is complete, export it in various formats (ex: PDF, image, etc.) and share it with team members or stakeholders. This ensures that everyone has access to the brainstorming outcomes for reference or further development.
  • Revisit & Iterate: Mind mapping is often an iterative process. You can revisit and expand upon your mind map as new ideas emerge or as the project evolves, keeping your brainstorming sessions dynamic and adaptable.

For more information, read how Creately facilitates problem solving with Mind Mapping: Visual Problem Solving .

Flowcharts are a type of diagram that can be used to visually represent the steps in a process. They can be a valuable tool for brainstorming, as Flowcharts help team members to identify the different steps involved in a process and to see how they are interconnected.

Brainstorming with Flowcharts on a Visual Collaboration Tool:

  • Map the Process: Start with a blank canvas and create a flowchart that represents the steps involved in a particular project, idea, or problem. This provides a clear visual representation of the brainstorming subject.
  • Hierarchical Organization: Flowcharts use symbols and connectors to illustrate the sequence and relationships between different steps or components of a process. In a collaborative setting, team members can contribute their insights and ideas by adding new steps or modifying existing ones, creating an organized and dynamic representation.
  • Visualize Decision Points: Include decision points and conditional branches, making them suitable for exploring various options and scenarios during brainstorming. Team members can discuss different decision pathways and collaborate on determining the best course of action.
  • Parallel Processing: Some brainstorming sessions involve multiple parallel activities or ideas. Flowcharts can depict parallel processes or ideas within the same chart, making it easy to compare and contrast different approaches.
  • Real-time Collaboration: Visual collaboration tools allow real-time collaboration. Team members can simultaneously work on the same flowchart, adding their insights, suggestions, or modifications. Version Control: Ensure that previous iterations of the flowchart are saved, making it easy to track the evolution of ideas and revert to earlier versions if needed.
  • Export and Share : Once the flowchart is complete, it can be exported in various formats (ex: PDF, image, etc.) and shared with team members or stakeholders. This enables widespread access to the brainstorming outcomes.
  • Revisit & Iterate: Flowcharts can be continuously refined and improved as new ideas emerge or as the brainstorming session progresses.

For more information, see how Creately helps teams to visually represent their ideas, processes, and decisions using Flowcharts.

Mood boards are visual collages that can be used to communicate a particular style, feeling, or atmosphere. Mood boards can also be used to brainstorm solutions to problems. For example, a team could use a mood board to brainstorm design ideas for a new product or a new marketing campaign.

Brainstorming using Mood Boards on a visual collaboration tool:

  • Visual Inspiration: Mood boards are a collage of images, colors, textures, and other visual elements that convey a particular mood or theme. Within a visual collaboration tool, you can create a digital mood board by uploading or collecting images, icons, and stickers that inspire or relate to your brainstorming topic. This visual inspiration can stimulate creativity and set the tone for the session.
  • Exploring Themes and Styles: Mood boards help with exploring different themes, styles, or design directions. In a collaborative environment, team members can contribute their own images and ideas to the mood board, providing diverse perspectives and design options.
  • Capturing Ideas Visually: Capture and communicate abstract ideas or emotions using images, colors, and textures to represent concepts or feelings that are challenging to express in words alone. This makes brainstorming more accessible and inclusive.
  • Fostering Visual Consensus: During brainstorming, it’s common for team members to have different interpretations of concepts or design directions. Mood boards provide a visual reference that helps team members align their understanding and preferences, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • Interactive Collaboration: Visual collaboration tools allow for real-time collaboration, which team members can use to collectively curate and arrange images, add annotations, and comment on specific elements.
  • Presenting to Stakeholders: Easily present the mood board to stakeholders or clients.
  • Iterative Design: Mood boards can evolve over time. Team members can continuously update and refine the mood board as the brainstorming session progresses, adding new ideas and feedback.
  • Export and Sharing: Mood boards can be exported and shared with others in various formats, such as PDF or image files. This ensures that the brainstorming ideas and design directions are easily accessible for all stakeholders.

For more information on how Creately can be used in Mood Boards, see Mood Board Examples .

Visual collaboration tools offer a dynamic and flexible solution for teams and individuals seeking to foster innovation and creativity. These tools provide a collaborative canvas where ideas can flow freely, transcending geographical boundaries and facilitating effective communication and collaboration. With a range of options available, it’s crucial to align the choice of tool with specific project needs, whether it’s complex product development or rapid idea generation. By embracing visual collaboration tools and techniques, individuals and teams can elevate their brainstorming sessions and unlock many innovative possibilities.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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How to Choose the Right Visual Collaboration Tool for Brainstorming and Problem Solving

Paramee is a technical writer who thrives in bridging the gap between complex technical subjects and accessible, engaging prose. Outside of her professional pursuits, she finds solace in the exploration of oceans and jungles.

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Painting Pictures with Data: The Power of Visual Representations

visual representation

Picture this. A chaotic world of abstract concepts and complex data, like a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Each piece, a different variable, a unique detail.

Alone, they’re baffling, nearly indecipherable.

But together? They’re a masterpiece of visual information, a detailed illustration.

American data pioneer Edward Tufte , a notable figure in the graphics press, believed that the art of seeing is not limited to the physical objects around us. He stated, “The commonality between science and art is in trying to see profoundly – to develop strategies of seeing and showing.”

It’s in this context that we delve into the world of data visualization. This is a process where you create visual representations that foster understanding and enhance decision making.

It’s the transformation of data into visual formats. The information could be anything from theoretical frameworks and research findings to word problems. Or anything in-between. And it has the power to change the way you learn, work, and more.

And with the help of modern technology, you can take advantage of data visualization easier than ever today.

What are Visual Representations?

Think of visuals, a smorgasbord of graphical representation, images, pictures, and drawings. Now blend these with ideas, abstract concepts, and data.

You get visual representations . A powerful, potent blend of communication and learning.

As a more formal definition, visual representation is the use of images to represent different types of data and ideas.

They’re more than simply a picture. Visual representations organize information visually , creating a deeper understanding and fostering conceptual understanding. These can be concrete objects or abstract symbols or forms, each telling a unique story. And they can be used to improve understanding everywhere, from a job site to an online article. University professors can even use them to improve their teaching.

But this only scratches the surface of what can be created via visual representation.

Types of Visual Representation for Improving Conceptual Understanding

Graphs, spider diagrams, cluster diagrams – the list is endless!

Each type of visual representation has its specific uses. A mind map template can help you create a detailed illustration of your thought process. It illustrates your ideas or data in an engaging way and reveals how they connect.

Here are a handful of different types of data visualization tools that you can begin using right now.

1. Spider Diagrams

spider diagram - visual representation example

Spider diagrams , or mind maps, are the master web-weavers of visual representation.

They originate from a central concept and extend outwards like a spider’s web. Different ideas or concepts branch out from the center area, providing a holistic view of the topic.

This form of representation is brilliant for showcasing relationships between concepts, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject at hand.

2. Cluster Diagrams

cluster diagram - visual representation example

As champions of grouping and classifying information, cluster diagrams are your go-to tools for usability testing or decision making. They help you group similar ideas together, making it easier to digest and understand information.

They’re great for exploring product features, brainstorming solutions, or sorting out ideas.

3. Pie Charts

Pie chart- visual representation example

Pie charts are the quintessential representatives of quantitative information.

They are a type of visual diagrams that transform complex data and word problems into simple symbols. Each slice of the pie is a story, a visual display of the part-to-whole relationship.

Whether you’re presenting survey results, market share data, or budget allocation, a pie chart offers a straightforward, easily digestible visual representation.

4. Bar Charts

Bar chart- visual representation example

If you’re dealing with comparative data or need a visual for data analysis, bar charts or graphs come to the rescue.

Bar graphs represent different variables or categories against a quantity, making them perfect for representing quantitative information. The vertical or horizontal bars bring the data to life, translating numbers into visual elements that provide context and insights at a glance.

Visual Representations Benefits

1. deeper understanding via visual perception.

Visual representations aren’t just a feast for the eyes; they’re food for thought. They offer a quick way to dig down into more detail when examining an issue.

They mold abstract concepts into concrete objects, breathing life into the raw, quantitative information. As you glimpse into the world of data through these visualization techniques , your perception deepens.

You no longer just see the data; you comprehend it, you understand its story. Complex data sheds its mystifying cloak, revealing itself in a visual format that your mind grasps instantly. It’s like going from a two dimensional to a three dimensional picture of the world.

2. Enhanced Decision Making

Navigating through different variables and relationships can feel like walking through a labyrinth. But visualize these with a spider diagram or cluster diagram, and the path becomes clear. Visual representation is one of the most efficient decision making techniques .

Visual representations illuminate the links and connections, presenting a fuller picture. It’s like having a compass in your decision-making journey, guiding you toward the correct answer.

3. Professional Development

Whether you’re presenting research findings, sharing theoretical frameworks, or revealing historical examples, visual representations are your ace. They equip you with a new language, empowering you to convey your message compellingly.

From the conference room to the university lecture hall, they enhance your communication and teaching skills, propelling your professional development. Try to create a research mind map and compare it to a plain text document full of research documentation and see the difference.

4. Bridging the Gap in Data Analysis

What is data visualization if not the mediator between data analysis and understanding? It’s more than an actual process; it’s a bridge.

It takes you from the shores of raw, complex data to the lands of comprehension and insights. With visualization techniques, such as the use of simple symbols or detailed illustrations, you can navigate through this bridge effortlessly.

5. Enriching Learning Environments

Imagine a teaching setting where concepts are not just told but shown. Where students don’t just listen to word problems but see them represented in charts and graphs. This is what visual representations bring to learning environments.

They transform traditional methods into interactive learning experiences, enabling students to grasp complex ideas and understand relationships more clearly. The result? An enriched learning experience that fosters conceptual understanding.

6. Making Abstract Concepts Understandable

In a world brimming with abstract concepts, visual representations are our saving grace. They serve as translators, decoding these concepts into a language we can understand.

Let’s say you’re trying to grasp a theoretical framework. Reading about it might leave you puzzled. But see it laid out in a spider diagram or a concept map, and the fog lifts. With its different variables clearly represented, the concept becomes tangible.

Visual representations simplify the complex, convert the abstract into concrete, making the inscrutable suddenly crystal clear. It’s the power of transforming word problems into visual displays, a method that doesn’t just provide the correct answer. It also offers a deeper understanding.

How to Make a Cluster Diagram?

Ready to get creative? Let’s make a cluster diagram.

First, choose your central idea or problem. This goes in the center area of your diagram. Next, think about related topics or subtopics. Draw lines from the central idea to these topics. Each line represents a relationship.

how to create a visual representation

While you can create a picture like this by drawing, there’s a better way.

Mindomo is a mind mapping tool that will enable you to create visuals that represent data quickly and easily. It provides a wide range of templates to kick-start your diagramming process. And since it’s an online site, you can access it from anywhere.

With a mind map template, creating a cluster diagram becomes an effortless process. This is especially the case since you can edit its style, colors, and more to your heart’s content. And when you’re done, sharing is as simple as clicking a button.

A Few Final Words About Information Visualization

To wrap it up, visual representations are not just about presenting data or information. They are about creating a shared understanding, facilitating learning, and promoting effective communication. Whether it’s about defining a complex process or representing an abstract concept, visual representations have it all covered. And with tools like Mindomo , creating these visuals is as easy as pie.

In the end, visual representation isn’t just about viewing data, it’s about seeing, understanding, and interacting with it. It’s about immersing yourself in the world of abstract concepts, transforming them into tangible visual elements. It’s about seeing relationships between ideas in full color. It’s a whole new language that opens doors to a world of possibilities.

The correct answer to ‘what is data visualization?’ is simple. It’s the future of learning, teaching, and decision-making.

Keep it smart, simple, and creative! The Mindomo Team

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2024’s Must-See Visual Presentation Examples to Power Up Your Deck

2024’s Must-See Visual Presentation Examples to Power Up Your Deck

Anh Vu • 05 Apr 2024 • 6 min read

Keep on reading because these visual presentation examples will blow your boring decks away! For many people, delivering a presentation is a daunting project, even before it turns to hybrid and virtual displays due to the pandemic. To avoid the Death By PowerPoint phenomenon, it is time to adopt new techniques to make your presentations more visual and impressive.

This article tries to encourage you to think outside of the slide by providing essential elements of a successful visual presentation, especially for the new presenter and those who want to save time, money, and effort for the upcoming presentation deadline.

Table of Contents

What is a visual presentation.

  • Types of Visual Presentation Examples

How to Create a Visual Presentation

  • What Makes a Good Presentation Visual?

Frequently Asked Questions

How ahaslides supports a good visual presentation.

As mentioned before, you need a presentation tool to make your presentation more visual and engaging. The art of leveraging visual elements is all intended visual aids make sense and kick off audiences’ imagination, curiosity, and interest from the entire presentation.

The easiest way to create interaction between the presenter and the audience is by asking for rhetorical and thought-provoking quizzes and quick surveys during the presentation. AhaSlides , with a range of live polls , live Q&A , word clouds , interactive questions, image questions, creative fonts, and integration with streaming platforms can help you to make a good visual presentation in just a second.

  • Types of Presentation
  • College Presentation
  • Creative Presentation Ideas
  • AhaSlides Free Public Templates

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So, what are the visual presentation examples? When providing as much information as possible, many presenters think that text-heavy slides may help, but by contrast, they may lead to distraction. As we explore the characteristics of good presentations, illustrations and graphics play an important role in delivering compelling content and turning complex concepts more clearly, precisely, and instantly to understand. A visual presentation is the adoption of a range of visual aids on presentation to ensure information is easier to understand and memorize. 

In addition, visual aids can also help to keep presenters on track, which can be used as a cue for reviving a train of thought. They build better interaction and communication between presenters and the audience, making them notice more deeply what you are saying.

Types of Visual Presentation Examples 

Some possible visual presentations include infographics , charts, diagrams, posters, flipcharts, idea board , whiteboards, and video presentation examples. 

An infographic is a collection of different graphic visual presentations to represent information, data, or knowledge intended more visually quickly and clearly to grab the audience’s attention.

To illustrate quantitative data effectively, it is important to make use of graphs and charts. For both business use and research use, graphs and charts can show multiple and complex data in a way that is easy to understand and memory.

When it comes to presenting information systematically and logically, you can use diagrams. A diagram is a powerful tool for effective communication and brainstorming processes. It also is time-saving for people to read and collect information.

A poster, especially a research project poster, provides brief and concrete information about a research paper straightforwardly. The audiences can grab all important data knowledge and findings through posters. 

A flipchart and whiteboard are the most basic presentation aids and work best to supplement lecture slides. Excellent whiteboard and flipchart composite of well-chosen words, and clear diagram will help to explain complex concepts.

A video presentation is not a new concept, it is a great way to spread ideas lively and quickly attract the audience’s attention. The advantages of a video presentation lie in its animation and illustration concepts, fascinating sound effects, and user-friendliness. 

In addition, we can add many types of visual aids in the presentations as long as they can give shapes and form words or thoughts into visual content. Most popular visual aids include graphs, statistics, charts, and diagrams that should be noted in your mind. These elements combined with verbal are a great way to engage the listeners’ imagination and also emphasize vital points more memorable.

Visual Presentation Examples

It is simply to create more visual presentations than you think. With the development of technology and the internet, you can find visual presentation examples and templates for a second. PowerPoint is a good start, but there are a variety of quality alternatives, such as AhaSlides , Keynote, and Prezi.

When it comes to designing an effective visual presentation, you may identify some key steps beforehand:

Visual Presentation Examples – Focus on Your Topic

Firstly, you need to determine your purpose and understand your audience’s needs. If you are going to present in a seminar with your audience of scientists, engineers, business owners… They are likely to care about data under simple charts and graphs, which explain the results or trends. Or if you are going to give a lecture for secondary students, your slides should be something fun and interesting, with more colourful pictures and interactive questions.

Visual Presentation Examples – Animation and Transition

When you want to add a bit of excitement to a slideshow and help to keep the listener more engaged, you use animation and transition. These functions help to shift the focus of audiences between elements on slides. When the transition style and setting are set right, it can help to give fluidity and professionalism to a slideshow.

Visual Presentation Examples – Devices for Interactivity

One of the approaches that improve communication between audiences and the use of visual aids is using technology assistance. You don’t want to take too much time to create well-designed visual aids while ensuring your presentation is impressive, so why not leverage a presentation app like AhaSlides ? It properly encourages participant engagement with interactive visual features and templates and is time-saving. With its help, you can design your presentation either formally or informally depending on your interest.

Visual Presentation Examples – Give an Eye-catching Title

Believe it or not, the title is essential to attracting audiences at first sight. Though don’t “read the book by its cover”, you still can put your thoughts into a unique title that conveys the topic while piquing the viewer’s interest. 

Visual Presentation Examples – Play a Short Video

Creative video presentation ideas are always important. “Videos evoke emotional responses”, it will be a mistake if you don’t leverage short videos with sound to reel in and captivate the audience’s attention. You can put the video at the beginning of the presentation as a brief introduction to your topic, or you can play it as a supplement to explain difficult concepts. 

Visual Presentation Examples – Use a Prop or Creative Visual Aid to Inject Humour

It is challenging to keep your audience interested and engaged with your audience from the whole presentation. It is why to add a prop or creative visual aid to pull your audience’s focus on what you say. Here are some ideas to cover it:

  • Use neon colour and duotones
  • Tell a personal story
  • Show a shocking heading
  • Use isometric illustrations
  • Go vertical

Visual Presentation Examples – Rehearsal and Get Feedback

It is an important step to make your visual presentation really work out. You won’t know any unexpected mirrors may come out on D-day if you don’t make the rehearsal and get feedback from a reliable source. If they say that your visual image is in bad-quality, the data is overwhelming, or the pictures are misunderstood, you can have an alternative plan in advance.

Visual Presentation Examples

What Makes a Good Visual Presentation?

Incorporate visual or audio media appropriately. Ensure you arrange and integrate suitable data presentation in your slides or videos. You can read the guidelines for visual aids applications in the following:

  • Choose a readable text size about the slide room and text spacing in about 5-7 doubted-spaced.
  • Use consistent colour for overall presentation, visual aids work better in white yellow and blue backgrounds.
  • Take care of data presentation, and avoid oversimplification or too much detail.
  • Keep the data shown minimum and highlight really important data points only.
  • Choose font carefully, keep in mind that lowercase is easier to read than uppercase
  • Don’t mix fonts.
  • Printed text is easier to read than handwritten text.
  • Use the visual to emphasize punctuation in your verbal presentation.
  • Say no to poor-quality images or videos.
  • Visual elements need to be strategic and relevant.

What well-designed visual aids should have?

To make an effective visual aid, you must follow principles of design, including contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity.

Why is it important to keep visual aids simple?

Simple ads help to keep things clear and understandable, so the message can be communicated effectively.

What is the purpose of visual aids in the classroom?

To encourage the learning process and make it easier and more interesting so students would want to engage in lessons more.

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17 Data Visualization Techniques All Professionals Should Know

Data Visualizations on a Page

  • 17 Sep 2019

There’s a growing demand for business analytics and data expertise in the workforce. But you don’t need to be a professional analyst to benefit from data-related skills.

Becoming skilled at common data visualization techniques can help you reap the rewards of data-driven decision-making , including increased confidence and potential cost savings. Learning how to effectively visualize data could be the first step toward using data analytics and data science to your advantage to add value to your organization.

Several data visualization techniques can help you become more effective in your role. Here are 17 essential data visualization techniques all professionals should know, as well as tips to help you effectively present your data.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is the process of creating graphical representations of information. This process helps the presenter communicate data in a way that’s easy for the viewer to interpret and draw conclusions.

There are many different techniques and tools you can leverage to visualize data, so you want to know which ones to use and when. Here are some of the most important data visualization techniques all professionals should know.

Data Visualization Techniques

The type of data visualization technique you leverage will vary based on the type of data you’re working with, in addition to the story you’re telling with your data .

Here are some important data visualization techniques to know:

  • Gantt Chart
  • Box and Whisker Plot
  • Waterfall Chart
  • Scatter Plot
  • Pictogram Chart
  • Highlight Table
  • Bullet Graph
  • Choropleth Map
  • Network Diagram
  • Correlation Matrices

1. Pie Chart

Pie Chart Example

Pie charts are one of the most common and basic data visualization techniques, used across a wide range of applications. Pie charts are ideal for illustrating proportions, or part-to-whole comparisons.

Because pie charts are relatively simple and easy to read, they’re best suited for audiences who might be unfamiliar with the information or are only interested in the key takeaways. For viewers who require a more thorough explanation of the data, pie charts fall short in their ability to display complex information.

2. Bar Chart

Bar Chart Example

The classic bar chart , or bar graph, is another common and easy-to-use method of data visualization. In this type of visualization, one axis of the chart shows the categories being compared, and the other, a measured value. The length of the bar indicates how each group measures according to the value.

One drawback is that labeling and clarity can become problematic when there are too many categories included. Like pie charts, they can also be too simple for more complex data sets.

3. Histogram

Histogram Example

Unlike bar charts, histograms illustrate the distribution of data over a continuous interval or defined period. These visualizations are helpful in identifying where values are concentrated, as well as where there are gaps or unusual values.

Histograms are especially useful for showing the frequency of a particular occurrence. For instance, if you’d like to show how many clicks your website received each day over the last week, you can use a histogram. From this visualization, you can quickly determine which days your website saw the greatest and fewest number of clicks.

4. Gantt Chart

Gantt Chart Example

Gantt charts are particularly common in project management, as they’re useful in illustrating a project timeline or progression of tasks. In this type of chart, tasks to be performed are listed on the vertical axis and time intervals on the horizontal axis. Horizontal bars in the body of the chart represent the duration of each activity.

Utilizing Gantt charts to display timelines can be incredibly helpful, and enable team members to keep track of every aspect of a project. Even if you’re not a project management professional, familiarizing yourself with Gantt charts can help you stay organized.

5. Heat Map

Heat Map Example

A heat map is a type of visualization used to show differences in data through variations in color. These charts use color to communicate values in a way that makes it easy for the viewer to quickly identify trends. Having a clear legend is necessary in order for a user to successfully read and interpret a heatmap.

There are many possible applications of heat maps. For example, if you want to analyze which time of day a retail store makes the most sales, you can use a heat map that shows the day of the week on the vertical axis and time of day on the horizontal axis. Then, by shading in the matrix with colors that correspond to the number of sales at each time of day, you can identify trends in the data that allow you to determine the exact times your store experiences the most sales.

6. A Box and Whisker Plot

Box and Whisker Plot Example

A box and whisker plot , or box plot, provides a visual summary of data through its quartiles. First, a box is drawn from the first quartile to the third of the data set. A line within the box represents the median. “Whiskers,” or lines, are then drawn extending from the box to the minimum (lower extreme) and maximum (upper extreme). Outliers are represented by individual points that are in-line with the whiskers.

This type of chart is helpful in quickly identifying whether or not the data is symmetrical or skewed, as well as providing a visual summary of the data set that can be easily interpreted.

7. Waterfall Chart

Waterfall Chart Example

A waterfall chart is a visual representation that illustrates how a value changes as it’s influenced by different factors, such as time. The main goal of this chart is to show the viewer how a value has grown or declined over a defined period. For example, waterfall charts are popular for showing spending or earnings over time.

8. Area Chart

Area Chart Example

An area chart , or area graph, is a variation on a basic line graph in which the area underneath the line is shaded to represent the total value of each data point. When several data series must be compared on the same graph, stacked area charts are used.

This method of data visualization is useful for showing changes in one or more quantities over time, as well as showing how each quantity combines to make up the whole. Stacked area charts are effective in showing part-to-whole comparisons.

9. Scatter Plot

Scatter Plot Example

Another technique commonly used to display data is a scatter plot . A scatter plot displays data for two variables as represented by points plotted against the horizontal and vertical axis. This type of data visualization is useful in illustrating the relationships that exist between variables and can be used to identify trends or correlations in data.

Scatter plots are most effective for fairly large data sets, since it’s often easier to identify trends when there are more data points present. Additionally, the closer the data points are grouped together, the stronger the correlation or trend tends to be.

10. Pictogram Chart

Pictogram Example

Pictogram charts , or pictograph charts, are particularly useful for presenting simple data in a more visual and engaging way. These charts use icons to visualize data, with each icon representing a different value or category. For example, data about time might be represented by icons of clocks or watches. Each icon can correspond to either a single unit or a set number of units (for example, each icon represents 100 units).

In addition to making the data more engaging, pictogram charts are helpful in situations where language or cultural differences might be a barrier to the audience’s understanding of the data.

11. Timeline

Timeline Example

Timelines are the most effective way to visualize a sequence of events in chronological order. They’re typically linear, with key events outlined along the axis. Timelines are used to communicate time-related information and display historical data.

Timelines allow you to highlight the most important events that occurred, or need to occur in the future, and make it easy for the viewer to identify any patterns appearing within the selected time period. While timelines are often relatively simple linear visualizations, they can be made more visually appealing by adding images, colors, fonts, and decorative shapes.

12. Highlight Table

Highlight Table Example

A highlight table is a more engaging alternative to traditional tables. By highlighting cells in the table with color, you can make it easier for viewers to quickly spot trends and patterns in the data. These visualizations are useful for comparing categorical data.

Depending on the data visualization tool you’re using, you may be able to add conditional formatting rules to the table that automatically color cells that meet specified conditions. For instance, when using a highlight table to visualize a company’s sales data, you may color cells red if the sales data is below the goal, or green if sales were above the goal. Unlike a heat map, the colors in a highlight table are discrete and represent a single meaning or value.

13. Bullet Graph

Bullet Graph Example

A bullet graph is a variation of a bar graph that can act as an alternative to dashboard gauges to represent performance data. The main use for a bullet graph is to inform the viewer of how a business is performing in comparison to benchmarks that are in place for key business metrics.

In a bullet graph, the darker horizontal bar in the middle of the chart represents the actual value, while the vertical line represents a comparative value, or target. If the horizontal bar passes the vertical line, the target for that metric has been surpassed. Additionally, the segmented colored sections behind the horizontal bar represent range scores, such as “poor,” “fair,” or “good.”

14. Choropleth Maps

Choropleth Map Example

A choropleth map uses color, shading, and other patterns to visualize numerical values across geographic regions. These visualizations use a progression of color (or shading) on a spectrum to distinguish high values from low.

Choropleth maps allow viewers to see how a variable changes from one region to the next. A potential downside to this type of visualization is that the exact numerical values aren’t easily accessible because the colors represent a range of values. Some data visualization tools, however, allow you to add interactivity to your map so the exact values are accessible.

15. Word Cloud

Word Cloud Example

A word cloud , or tag cloud, is a visual representation of text data in which the size of the word is proportional to its frequency. The more often a specific word appears in a dataset, the larger it appears in the visualization. In addition to size, words often appear bolder or follow a specific color scheme depending on their frequency.

Word clouds are often used on websites and blogs to identify significant keywords and compare differences in textual data between two sources. They are also useful when analyzing qualitative datasets, such as the specific words consumers used to describe a product.

16. Network Diagram

Network Diagram Example

Network diagrams are a type of data visualization that represent relationships between qualitative data points. These visualizations are composed of nodes and links, also called edges. Nodes are singular data points that are connected to other nodes through edges, which show the relationship between multiple nodes.

There are many use cases for network diagrams, including depicting social networks, highlighting the relationships between employees at an organization, or visualizing product sales across geographic regions.

17. Correlation Matrix

Correlation Matrix Example

A correlation matrix is a table that shows correlation coefficients between variables. Each cell represents the relationship between two variables, and a color scale is used to communicate whether the variables are correlated and to what extent.

Correlation matrices are useful to summarize and find patterns in large data sets. In business, a correlation matrix might be used to analyze how different data points about a specific product might be related, such as price, advertising spend, launch date, etc.

Other Data Visualization Options

While the examples listed above are some of the most commonly used techniques, there are many other ways you can visualize data to become a more effective communicator. Some other data visualization options include:

  • Bubble clouds
  • Circle views
  • Dendrograms
  • Dot distribution maps
  • Open-high-low-close charts
  • Polar areas
  • Radial trees
  • Ring Charts
  • Sankey diagram
  • Span charts
  • Streamgraphs
  • Wedge stack graphs
  • Violin plots

Business Analytics | Become a data-driven leader | Learn More

Tips For Creating Effective Visualizations

Creating effective data visualizations requires more than just knowing how to choose the best technique for your needs. There are several considerations you should take into account to maximize your effectiveness when it comes to presenting data.

Related : What to Keep in Mind When Creating Data Visualizations in Excel

One of the most important steps is to evaluate your audience. For example, if you’re presenting financial data to a team that works in an unrelated department, you’ll want to choose a fairly simple illustration. On the other hand, if you’re presenting financial data to a team of finance experts, it’s likely you can safely include more complex information.

Another helpful tip is to avoid unnecessary distractions. Although visual elements like animation can be a great way to add interest, they can also distract from the key points the illustration is trying to convey and hinder the viewer’s ability to quickly understand the information.

Finally, be mindful of the colors you utilize, as well as your overall design. While it’s important that your graphs or charts are visually appealing, there are more practical reasons you might choose one color palette over another. For instance, using low contrast colors can make it difficult for your audience to discern differences between data points. Using colors that are too bold, however, can make the illustration overwhelming or distracting for the viewer.

Related : Bad Data Visualization: 5 Examples of Misleading Data

Visuals to Interpret and Share Information

No matter your role or title within an organization, data visualization is a skill that’s important for all professionals. Being able to effectively present complex data through easy-to-understand visual representations is invaluable when it comes to communicating information with members both inside and outside your business.

There’s no shortage in how data visualization can be applied in the real world. Data is playing an increasingly important role in the marketplace today, and data literacy is the first step in understanding how analytics can be used in business.

Are you interested in improving your analytical skills? Learn more about Business Analytics , our eight-week online course that can help you use data to generate insights and tackle business decisions.

This post was updated on January 20, 2022. It was originally published on September 17, 2019.

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Literacy Ideas

Teaching Visual Literacy and Visual Texts in the Classroom

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For many people, the word ‘literacy’ conjures up an image of a library filled with dusty books. This is unsurprising given the importance the written word has played in all our lives, especially those of us who are too old to be considered ‘digital natives’.

Despite the importance of the written word in our schools, it is not the only means of widely sharing our thoughts and ideas. We are constantly bombarded with static and moving images in this Internet age. It is more essential than ever that our students develop the necessary visual literacy skills to navigate this image-intense world we all inhabit.

Screens of all shapes and sizes dominate our attention span; YouTube and various social media platforms have replaced the book as the primary source of entertainment in the blink of an eye, and this is unlikely to change.

In this article, we will examine some approaches to help you devise activities using visual texts and teaching visual literacy in the classroom. We will also suggest fun and meaningful activities you can use with your students today.

Firstly, however, we need to get to grips with precisely what we mean when we use the term ‘visual literacy’. We can consider the term as a general working definition referring to interpreting and creating visual images. Visual literacy is about communication and interaction, as with other types of literacy. While it has much in common with those other forms of literacy, it has some unique aspects that students will need to explore specifically.

What is Visual Literacy?

The basic definition of visual literacy is the ability to read, write and create static and moving visual images. This concept relates to art and design but has much broader applications. Visual literacy is about language, communication and interaction. Visual media is a linguistic tool with which we communicate, exchange ideas and navigate our highly visual digital world .

Luckily, when introducing visual texts to students, there is no shortage of options and examples, as can be seen below.

The term was first coined in 1969 by John Debes, who founded the International Visual Literacy Association:


A Complete Visual Text Teaching Unit

visual literacy | movie response unit 1 | Teaching Visual Literacy and Visual Texts in the Classroom | literacyideas.com

Make  MOVIES A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CURRICULUM  with this engaging collection of tasks and tools your students will love. NO PREPARATION REQUIRED.

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This collection of  21 INDEPENDENT TASKS  and  GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS  takes students beyond the hype, special effects, and trailers to look at visual literacy from several perspectives, offering DEEP LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES watching a series, documentary, film, or even video game.

What Aspects of Visual Literacy Should Be Taught?

Visual literacy is more than just recognizing images or understanding graphics; it’s about comprehending, analyzing, and effectively communicating through visual means. As educators, fostering visual literacy among students is paramount in preparing them for a world saturated with visual stimuli. Here, we delve into the key components of visual literacy and explore how educators can cultivate these skills in their students.

1. Interpretation: Decoding Visual Information

Interpretation lies at the heart of visual literacy. Teaching students how to analyze and interpret visual information equips them with the essential skills to make sense of the visuals they encounter daily. Whether deciphering complex infographics, decoding symbols in artworks, or understanding the message behind advertisements, interpretation enables students to extract meaning from visual texts. Educators can facilitate interpretation by engaging students in activities that prompt them to analyze images, charts, graphs, and diagrams critically.

2. Creation: Empowering Students to Visualize Ideas

Encouraging students to create their own visual representations is a powerful way to enhance their visual literacy skills. By engaging in the process of creating visuals, students not only deepen their understanding of concepts but also develop their ability to communicate ideas effectively. Whether designing posters, crafting digital presentations, or producing multimedia projects, creation fosters creativity and empowers students to express themselves visually.

3. Critical Thinking: Evaluating Visual Messages

Critical thinking is essential for navigating the vast sea of visual media with discernment and scepticism. Educators play a vital role in developing students’ ability to evaluate visual messages critically. This involves teaching students to question the credibility of sources, recognize bias, and consider the creator’s perspective. Educators cultivate a generation of critical consumers and creators of visual media by engaging in discussions and activities that prompt students to analyze the intent and impact of visual content.

4. Ethical Considerations: Navigating the Complexities of Visual Representation

In an age where images can be easily manipulated and misrepresented, discussing ethical considerations is crucial in visual literacy education. Educators must guide students in navigating the ethical implications of using and creating visual content. This includes addressing issues of representation, authenticity, and the responsible use of images. By fostering conversations around ethical dilemmas and encouraging students to consider the ethical implications of their visual creations, educators instil values of integrity and respect in their students.

Incorporating these critical components into visual literacy instruction empowers educators to nurture students adept at interpreting, creating, and critically evaluating visual content. By equipping students with these essential skills, educators prepare them to thrive in a world where visual communication reigns supreme, enabling them to navigate and contribute meaningfully to an increasingly visual society.

Why is Visual Literacy Important?

Much of the information that comes to our students is a combination of both written text and images. Our students must be fully equipped to process that information in all its forms.

Considering how visually orientated we are as humans, it is no surprise that images have a powerful impact on us. Research shows that there is a wide range of benefits derived from improved visual literacy, including:

  • Visual Information is More Memorable

One of the most effective ways to encourage information to jump from limited short-term memory to more powerful long-term memory is to pair text with images. Studies show that we retain approximately 10-20% of written or spoken information but around 65% when presented visually.

  • Visual Information is Transferred Faster

Information presented visually is processed extremely quickly by the brain. The brain can even see images that appear for a mere 13 milliseconds. Around 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual in nature.

  • Helps Students Communicate with the World Around Them

Traditionally, we think of teaching literacy as the two-way street of reading and writing. We can think of visual literacy as involving similar processes of interpreting images and creating images. In a fast-moving world, with an ever-increasing diagnosis of attention deficit disorders, we increasingly rely on images to quickly convey meaning.

  • Enriches Understanding

While images can be used in isolation, they often accompany text or audio. Images can significantly enrich the student’s understanding of a text or other media, but to interact with these more profound levels of meaning, students must possess the necessary skills to access those depths.

  • Increases Enjoyment

Not only does increased visual literacy enrich our students’ understanding of the media they consume, but it can also enrich their enjoyment—especially of visual art. If you have taken younger students to an art gallery, you may have heard protests of ‘This is boring!’

However, when students have a deeper understanding of the ‘meaning’ behind the art pieces, are familiar with the context around the art, have insights into the lives of the artists, or are experienced with some of the techniques that produced the pieces, they often derive greater pleasure from their visit.

The same is true of their engagement in terms of visual literacy. As informed readers of images in various modalities, students are exposed to the exciting dimensions of shape, color, texture, and more.

Creates More Educated Image Readers

In an era of fake news and ceaseless advertising, a responsible approach to educating our students must encourage them to become informed viewers of the world, including the media they engage with. Through the teaching of visual literacy, we can help students understand how the images they consume can manipulate their emotions and persuade them to act in a given way.

Supports EAL Learners

The use of images in the classroom can be of great benefit to students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds. As these students travel on their road to fluency in English, images can provide an effective bridge in that learning process. While using images in the forms of flashcards, writing frames, etc, to teach EAL learners may be obvious, creating images by the students themselves can also be a great way to assess their understanding of more abstract concepts and vocabulary.

What Forms of Visual Text Are Used in the Classroom?


Students are exposed to a vast array of visual media. When we hear the jazzy term ‘visual text’ we may immediately think of its expression in the digital age, but the roots of visual texts stretch deep into our history; all the way back to our beginnings. Think of the cave paintings in Lascaux!

However, today, there are many more forms of visual text to consider. From cave walls to computer screens and all points in between, students are exposed to billboards, photographs, TV, video, maps, memes, digital stories, video games, timelines, signs, political cartoons, posters, flyers, newspapers, magazines, Facebook, Instagram, movies, DVDs, and cell phone wallpaper—to name but twenty! All these can serve as the jumping-off point for a lesson on visual literacy.

The digital age has opened the floodgate on images spilling into our consciousness and unconsciousness. The implications for visual literacy stretch far beyond the limits of the English classroom into all areas of our lives. From the math student interpreting graphs to the music student following musical notation or the geography student poring over Google Earth. For a multitude of purposes, in an array of modalities, visual literacy is ever more critical.

The Evolution Of Film As Visual Media

visual literacy | Teaching Visual Literacy and Visual Texts in the Classroom | literacyideas.com

In the mid-20th century, the impact of film and television introduced new modes of information and entertainment consumption, dramatically influencing popular culture.  For the first time, we could tell a story simultaneously to three hundred people in a cinema as a shared experience in 90 minutes that previously may have taken weeks in isolation.

Whilst we rightly should explore the contrast between books and films as storytelling tools, the impact film has had on popular culture over the last century is incomparable.

In 1902, Georges Melies released “A Trip to the Moon”, which is generally regarded as the world’s first feature film.  At the time, this creativity was probably only achievable by less than ten people worldwide.

Within less than a decade, films were being produced globally. Shortly after, the film and television “industry” employed thousands of creative storytellers in Hollywood alone. 

As a result, Visual Literacy evolved from the filming of staged plays into an immersive and engaging storytelling method that transformed storytelling from hundreds of pages of text into  “lights, camera and action.”

In the second half of the twentieth century, we saw pockets of innovative educators draw upon film as a genuine study area, introducing students to new methods of consuming and creating narratives.

Today’s students would consume visual literacy over traditional text-based literacies by a factor of ten outside the classroom. However, we are still reluctant to teach it even though it is far easier and cheaper to create a video and share it with millions via YouTube than to get a book published and printed.

Furthermore, many of our students are completely uneducated as to the principles of visual texts. They cannot effectively comprehend or decode a film or television show from an informed perspective.

Identifying and Understanding Visual Literacy Clues?

“Visual Literacy is the ability to construct meaning from images. It’s not a skill. It uses skills as a toolbox. It’s a form of critical thinking that enhances your intellectual capacity.”

Brian Kennedy

Director, Toledo Museum of Art

Suppose visual literacy is about decoding meaning from images of various kinds. In that case, we must teach our students how to set about this intimidating task – just as we do when we teach them how to approach a written text. Regardless of the nature of the image, this process follows three general steps:

1. What Can You See?

Students must become familiar with Visual Literacy Clues (VLCs) to answer this. When students are familiar with these clues, they will have a method of approaching any image to decode its meaning. The VLCs are subject matter, colors, angles, symbols, vectors, lighting, gaze, gestures, and shapes. These categories provide an approach to examining the details of the various aspects of the image they are reading.

2. How Does It Make You Feel?

After the students have had time to note what they can see in the image through examination of the VLCs, it is now time for them to consider their emotional response to what they have viewed.

With close reference to the VLCs they have previously identified, students express how the image makes them feel and how it has influenced them to feel this way. They may feel anger, anguish, excitement, happiness, etc. There is no limit to the emotions they may refer to, provided they can point to evidence from the image. Here are some suggested questions to help the students explore their responses:

Subject Matter: What is the topic of the movie? Who and what are in the image? What is the image about?

Color: How is color used in the image? What effect do the colors choose have on the viewer?

Angles: Are we looking from above or below? What is the camera angle? How does this affect what we see and how we feel about it?

Symbols: What symbols are used in this image? What do you think they represent? Are the colors that were chosen symbolic?

Vectors: Can you see the major lines in the image? Are they broken or unbroken? How do the lines create reading paths for our eyes?

Lighting: Can you describe the lighting used in the movie? How does it affect the ‘mood’ of the movie?

Gaze: What type of look is the character giving? Where is their gaze directed? What does this say?

Gesture: What type of gestures is the character giving? What is communicated by these gestures?

Shapes: What geometric shapes can you recognize in the image? Do they repeat? Is there a pattern? Is order or chaos conveyed?

3. What Is The Image Trying To Tell Us?

This third aspect peels back another level of meaning to get to the image’s overall message. This question asks the students to delve into the intentions of the image-maker themselves. The genre of the image will be of significance here, too, as the student considers the nature of the image as art, entertainment, advertisement or a fusion of the various genres.

Year Long Inference Based Writing Activities

Visual Writing Prompts

Tap into the power of imagery in your classroom to master INFERENCE as AUTHORS and CRITICAL THINKERS .

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This YEAR-LONG 500+ PAGE unit is packed with robust opportunities for your students to develop the critical skill of inference through fun imagery, powerful thinking tools, and graphic organizers.

Activities for the Teaching of Visual Literacy in the Classroom

1. caption a photograph.


Photographs are one of our students’ most familiar forms of visual media. Often, they see photographs accompanied by captions.

In this exercise, give copies of a single photograph to the class without captions. Their task is to closely examine the photograph individually or in small groups before writing a caption to accompany it. When students have completed their captions, they can compare them with each other before you reveal the true nature of the photograph.

Before writing their caption, you may wish to provide some supporting questions or background information. You may, however, wish them to go in blind to any background other than what they can deduce from the photograph itself.

This activity aims to reveal to the students how open a single visual image can be to interpretation. The students will gain awareness of the power of a caption to frame an image’s meaning, even if the caption is inaccurate.

Some suggested questions for students to consider:

  • What people, objects, or activities can you see in the picture?
  • Are there any clues as to when it was taken? What was happening at this time in history?
  • Are there any clues as to where it was taken? Are there any clues to why it was taken or who took it?
  • Is it a posed photograph? A natural scene? A documentary photograph? A selfie?

Extension: You may wish to use this activity as a lead-in to a more prominent topic. It can be a great introduction to draw out the students’ background knowledge and lead to a more extensive discussion or research project. This activity can also be easily adapted for various types of images, such as advertisements.

2. Engage with a Video Game


There is no doubt of two things when it comes to video games:

1. They get a bad rap

2. They are extremely popular among younger people

And while there is no doubt that there are some games on the market of dubious worth, as with any art form, there is much of merit and potential in this relatively new medium.

While there are obvious links to storytelling activities that can be made by examining the narrative of many video games, it may be much more interesting and useful to look more closely at how video games ‘work’ in terms of the overall experience.

Video games are immersive, multi-sensory experiences for players. This is a large part of their appeal. While written texts can appeal largely to our imaginative faculties, video games can also appeal to our senses of sight and hearing – and now, even touch can be incorporated. To have students focus on visual aspects of their gaming experience, give them a worksheet to make notes on that experience using the VLC categories listed above. This can create a great group discussion activity as the movie or game plays with the sound off.

3. Multi-Modal Comparisons


We are familiar with the concept of movie tie-ins. In days gone by, the response to the question “Have you read x?” was often a “No, but I saw the movie.” Nowadays the reply is just as likely to be “No, but I have the video game.” The triumvirate of the book—movie—game tie-in is fertile ground for some interesting text comparison work in the classroom.

Popular tie-in triplets include Harry Potter and the seminal Lord of the Rings. Use your students’ powers of visual perception to create this multimedia experience by selecting scenes from the original book and comparing how the scene is handled in the movie or video game.

Keep the focus on the visual elements in the latter two media. Encourage students to discuss, write, or prepare a presentation on how the movie or video game translates non-visual aspects from the text version into visual elements. Again, as discussed above, reference to the VLCs will be an important element in this activity. 

4. The Timeline


While the activities examined so far have focused on honing the students’ comprehension skills in relation to visual texts, this activity allows students to apply that knowledge to the creation of visual texts themselves.

Encourage the students to plot significant milestones in their lives on a visual timeline. They may use a combination of images and text if this aligns with your learning objectives and students’ abilities. However, do ensure you remind students how they can incorporate the VLCs into conveying meaning in their images.

This can also be a valuable activity in which to incorporate various aspects of IT skills. Students can perform advanced Google image searches to locate copyright-free images or use websites like The Noun Project to locate Creative Commons icons to help them make a slideshow version of their timeline on PowerPoint. A wealth of software applications can assist, many of which are freely available online.


Integrating Technology Into Visual Literacy Education

In today’s digitally driven world, technology offers a plethora of opportunities for both teachers and students to enhance visual literacy skills. By leveraging digital tools and resources, educators can engage students in dynamic learning experiences that foster critical thinking, creativity, and communication. Here are some ways teachers and students can use technology to enhance visual literacy:

  • Interactive Multimedia Presentations : Teachers can use software like Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides to create visually engaging multimedia presentations. Incorporating images, videos, and interactive elements captures students’ attention and helps them understand complex concepts through visual representation. Additionally, students can learn to create their own multimedia presentations, enhancing their skills in visual storytelling and design.
  • Digital Storytelling : Digital storytelling platforms such as Adobe Spark and Storybird enable students to combine text, images, and multimedia elements to create compelling narratives. By planning, creating, and sharing digital stories, students develop their visual literacy skills by making deliberate choices about visual elements to enhance the storytelling experience.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) : VR and AR technologies provide immersive experiences that transport students to different locations, time periods, or scenarios. Teachers can use VR headsets or AR apps to explore historical sites, simulate scientific experiments, or visualize abstract concepts. By interacting with virtual environments, students develop a deeper understanding of spatial relationships and visual perspectives.
  • Digital Art and Design Tools : Software programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Canva empower students to express their creativity through digital art and design. From editing photos to creating graphic illustrations, students learn to manipulate visual elements to convey meaning and evoke emotions. These tools also encourage experimentation and collaboration, allowing students to explore different artistic techniques and styles.
  • Online Image Analysis and Annotation Tools : Websites and apps such as Padlet, ThingLink, and Skitch enable students to annotate, analyze, and interact with images collaboratively. Teachers can use these tools to facilitate discussions around visual texts, encouraging students to ask questions, make observations, and draw connections between images and other forms of media.

By integrating technology into visual literacy instruction, teachers can create dynamic learning environments that empower students to become critical consumers and creators of visual media. Through hands-on exploration and experimentation with digital tools, students develop the skills and con

Draw a Line Under It

In this article, we have touched the tip of that proverbial iceberg. The scope for using visual texts in the classroom is potentially limited only by our own imagination. While we have looked at several concrete examples of visual literacy-based activities in the examples above, the opportunity for building lessons around the myriad forms of visual texts is endless.

Whether utilising advertisements, internet memes, or classic works of art as the focus, start with the three broad questions outlined previously: What can you see? How does it make you feel? What is the image trying to tell us? These questions provide the basis for developing your learning objectives, and your activities can quickly be built around them.

The Visual Literacy Clues provide strategies for reading any visual text, whether moving or still images. The more practice students get using these strategies, the more fluent their reading will become. While for some students, these skills may take time to develop, remind them too that just as we can refer to images as visual texts, we can equally refer to written text as images themselves, as the letters on the page are themselves symbolic in nature.

If they can learn to read the complexities of the written language, they can be confident they can learn to read the visual world too.

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Data Topics

  • Data Architecture
  • Data Literacy
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  • Data Modeling
  • Governance & Quality
  • Education Resources For Use & Management of Data

Types of Data Visualization and Their Uses

In today’s data-first business environment, the ability to convey complex information in an understandable and visually appealing manner is paramount. Different types of data visualization help transform analyzed data into comprehensible visuals for all types of audiences, from novices to experts. In fact, research has shown that the human brain can process images in as little as […]

visual representation ideas

In today’s data-first business environment, the ability to convey complex information in an understandable and  visually appealing  manner is paramount. Different types of data visualization help transform analyzed data into comprehensible visuals for all types of audiences, from novices to experts. In fact, research has shown that the human brain can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds.

visual representation ideas

In essence, data visualization is indispensable for distilling complex information into digestible formats that support both  quick comprehension  and informed decision-making. Its role in analysis and reporting underscores its value as a critical tool in any data-centric activity. 

Types of Data Visualization: Charts, Graphs, Infographics, and Dashboards

The diverse landscape of data visualization begins with simple charts and graphs but moves beyond infographics and animated dashboards.  Charts , in their various forms – be it bar charts for comparing quantities across categories or line charts depicting trends over time – serve as efficient tools for data representation. Graphs extend this utility further: Scatter plots reveal correlations between variables, while pie graphs offer a visual slice of proportional relationships within a dataset. 

Venturing beyond these traditional forms,  infographics  emerge as powerful storytelling tools, combining graphical elements with narrative to enlighten audiences on complex subjects. Unlike standard charts or graphs that focus on numerical data representation, infographics can incorporate timelines, flowcharts, and comparative images to weave a more comprehensive story around the data. 

A dashboard, when  effectively designed , serves as an instrument for synthesizing complex data into accessible and actionable insights. Dashboards very often encapsulate a wide array of information, from real-time data streams to historical trends, and present it through an amalgamation of charts, graphs, and indicators. 

A dashboard’s efficacy lies in its ability to tailor the visual narrative to the specific needs and objectives of its audience. By  selectively  filtering and highlighting critical data points, dashboards facilitate a focused analysis that aligns with organizational goals or individual projects. 

The best type of data visualization to use depends on the data at hand and the purpose of its presentation. Whether aiming to highlight trends, compare values, or elucidate complex relationships, selecting the appropriate visual form is crucial for effectively communicating insights buried within datasets. Through thoughtful design and strategic selection among these varied types of visualizations, one can illuminate patterns and narratives hidden within numbers – transforming raw data into meaningful knowledge.   

Other Types of Data Visualization: Maps and Geospatial Visualization  

Utilizing maps and geospatial visualization serves as a powerful method for uncovering and displaying insightful patterns hidden within complex datasets. At the intersection of geography and data analysis, this technique transforms numerical and categorical data into visual formats that are easily interpretable, such as heat maps, choropleths, or symbolic representations on geographical layouts. This approach enables viewers  to quickly grasp spatial relationships, distributions, trends, and anomalies that might be overlooked in traditional tabular data presentations. 

For instance, in public health,  geospatial visualizations  can highlight regions with high incidences of certain diseases, guiding targeted interventions. In environmental studies, they can illustrate changes in land use or the impact of climate change across different areas over time. By embedding data within its geographical context, these visualizations foster a deeper understanding of how location influences the phenomena being studied. 

Furthermore, the advent of interactive web-based mapping tools has enhanced the accessibility and utility of geospatial visualizations. Users can now engage with the data more directly – zooming in on areas of interest, filtering layers to refine their focus, or even contributing their own data points – making these visualizations an indispensable tool for researchers and decision-makers alike who are looking to extract meaningful patterns from spatially oriented datasets. 

Additionally,  scatter plots  excel in revealing correlations between two variables. By plotting data points on a two-dimensional graph, they allow analysts to discern potential relationships or trends that might not be evident from raw data alone. This makes scatter plots a staple in statistical analysis and scientific research where establishing cause-and-effect relationships is crucial. 

Bubble charts take the concept of scatter plots further by introducing a third dimension – typically represented by the size of the bubbles – thereby enabling an even more layered understanding of data relationships. Whether it’s comparing economic indicators across countries or visualizing population demographics, bubble charts provide a dynamic means to encapsulate complex interrelations within datasets, making them an indispensable tool for advanced data visualization. 

Innovative Data Visualization Techniques: Word Clouds and Network Diagrams 

Some innovative techniques have emerged in the realm of data visualization that not only simplify complex datasets but also enhance engagement and understanding. Among these, word clouds and network diagrams stand out for their  unique approaches  to presenting information. 

Word clouds represent textual data with size variations to emphasize the frequency or importance of words within a dataset. This technique transforms qualitative data into a visually appealing format, making it easier to identify dominant themes or sentiments in large text segments.

Network diagrams introduce an entirely different dimension by illustrating relationships between entities. Through nodes and connecting lines, they depict how individual components interact within a system – be it social networks, organizational structures, or technological infrastructures. This visualization method excels in uncovering patterns of connectivity and influence that might remain hidden in traditional charts or tables. 

Purpose and Uses of Each Type of Data Visualization 

The various types of data visualization – from bar graphs and line charts to heat maps and scatter plots – cater to different analytical needs and objectives. Each type is meticulously designed to highlight specific aspects of the data, making it imperative to understand their unique applications and strengths. This foundational knowledge empowers users to select the most effective visualization technique for their specific dataset and analysis goals.

Line Charts: Tracking Changes Over Time  Line charts are quintessential in the realm of data visualization for their simplicity and effectiveness in showcasing trends and changes over time. By connecting individual data points with straight lines, they offer a clear depiction of how values rise and fall across a chronological axis. This makes line charts particularly useful for tracking the evolution of quantities – be it the fluctuating stock prices in financial markets, the ebb and flow of temperatures across seasons, or the gradual growth of a company’s revenue over successive quarters. The visual narrative that line charts provide helps analysts, researchers, and casual observers alike to discern patterns within the data, such as cycles or anomalies.    

Bar Charts and Histograms: Comparing Categories and   Distributions  Bar charts  are highly suitable for representing comparative data. By plotting each category of comparison with a bar whose height or length reflects its value, bar charts make it easy to visualize relative values at a glance.

Histograms  show the distribution of groups of data in a dataset. This is particularly useful for understanding the shape of data distributions – whether they are skewed, normal, or have any outliers. Histograms provide insight into the underlying structure of data, revealing patterns that might not be apparent.  

Pie Charts: Visualizing Proportional Data   Pie charts  serve as a compelling visualization tool for representing proportional data, offering a clear snapshot of how different parts contribute to a whole. By dividing a circle into slices whose sizes are proportional to their quantity, pie charts provide an immediate visual comparison among various categories. This makes them especially useful in illustrating market shares, budget allocations, or the distribution of population segments.

The simplicity of pie charts allows for quick interpretation, making it easier for viewers to grasp complex data at a glance. However, when dealing with numerous categories or when precise comparisons are necessary, the effectiveness of pie charts may diminish. Despite this limitation, their ability to succinctly convey the relative significance of parts within a whole ensures their enduring popularity in data visualization across diverse fields. 

Scatter Plots: Identifying Relationship and Correlations Between Variables Scatter plots  are primarily used for spotting relationships and correlations between variables. These plots show data points related to one variable on one axis and a different variable on another axis. This visual arrangement allows viewers to determine patterns or trends that might indicate a correlation or relationship between the variables in question. 

For instance, if an increase in one variable consistently causes an increase (or decrease) in the other, this suggests a potential correlation. Scatter plots are particularly valuable for preliminary analyses where researchers seek to identify variables that warrant further investigation. Their straightforward yet powerful nature makes them indispensable for exploring complex datasets, providing clear insights into the dynamics between different factors at play. 

Heat Maps: Representing Complex Data Matrices through Color Gradients Heat maps  serve as a powerful tool in representing complex data matrices, using color gradients to convey information that might otherwise be challenging to digest. At their core, heat maps transform numerical values into a visual spectrum of colors, enabling viewers to quickly grasp patterns, outliers, and trends within the data. This method becomes more effective when the complex relationships between multiple variables need to be reviewed.  

For instance, in fields like genomics or meteorology, heat maps can illustrate gene expression levels or temperature fluctuations across different regions and times. By assigning warmer colors to higher values and cooler colors to lower ones, heat maps facilitate an intuitive understanding of data distribution and concentration areas, making them indispensable for exploratory data analysis and decision-making processes.

Dashboards and Infographics: Integrating Multiple Data Visualizations  Dashboards and infographics represent a synergistic approach in data visualization, blending various graphical elements to offer a holistic view of complex datasets.  Dashboards,  with their capacity to integrate multiple data visualizations such as charts, graphs, and maps onto a single interface, are instrumental in monitoring real-time data and tracking performance metrics across different parameters. They serve as an essential tool for decision-makers who require a comprehensive overview to identify trends and anomalies swiftly. 

Infographics, on the other hand, transform intricate data sets into engaging, easily digestible visual stories. By illustrating strong narratives with striking visuals and solid statistics, infographics make complex information easily digestible to any type of audience. 

Together, dashboards and infographics convey multifaceted data insights in an integrated manner – facilitating informed decisions through comprehensive yet clear snapshots of data landscapes.     


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  1. 10 Brilliant Tools for Creating Infographics & Visualizations

    Tools for creating simple infographics and data visualizations. 1. Piktochart. Piktochart is a web-based tool that has six decent free themes ( and a whole bunch more for the paid version) for creating simple visualizations. You can drag and drop different shapes and images, and there is quite a bit of customization available.

  2. 15 Effective Visual Presentation Tips To Wow Your Audience

    7. Add fun with visual quizzes and polls. To break the monotony and see if your audience is still with you, throw in some quick quizzes or polls. It's like a mini-game break in your presentation — your audience gets involved and it makes your presentation way more dynamic and memorable. 8.

  3. What is Visual Representation?

    Visual representation simplifies complex ideas and data and makes them easy to understand. Without these visual aids, designers would struggle to communicate their ideas, findings and products. For example, it would be easier to create a mockup of an e-commerce website interface than to describe it with words.

  4. 18 Types of Diagrams You Can Use to Visualize Data (Templates Included)

    Think of diagrams as visual representations of data or information that communicate a concept, idea, or process in a simplified and easily understandable way. ... A mind map starts with a central idea and expands outward to include supporting ideas, related subtopics, concepts, or tasks, which can be further subdivided as needed. The branches ...

  5. 100+ Vision Board Ideas: Unlocking the Power of Visualization

    Here are some imaginative ideas to consider: 1. Themed Vision Boards. Travel Board: If wanderlust runs in your veins, create a board dedicated to all the places you want to visit. Incorporate maps, postcards, and travel quotes. Career Aspirations: Dedicate a board to your professional goals.

  6. 105+ Creative Presentation Ideas to Engage Your Audience

    21 Get crafty (ripped paper details) Sometimes to tell a story, visual details can really help get a mood across. Ripped paper shapes and edges can give a presentation a special feel, almost as if it was done by hand. This visual technique works for any type of presentation except maybe in a corporate setting.

  7. 33 Creative Ways to Visualize Ideas [Infographic]

    The people over at Funders & Founders shared this interesting infographic recently, with 33 different ways to visualize your ideas. Unleash your inner creative and challenge yourself to try one of ...

  8. What is visual representation? » Design Match

    Defining Visual Representation: Visual representation is the act of conveying information, ideas, or concepts through visual elements such as images, charts, graphs, maps, and other graphical forms. It's a means of translating the abstract into the tangible, providing a visual language that transcends the limitations of words alone.

  9. The role of visual representations in scientific practices: from

    The use of visual representations (i.e., photographs, diagrams, models) has been part of science, and their use makes it possible for scientists to interact with and represent complex phenomena, not observable in other ways. Despite a wealth of research in science education on visual representations, the emphasis of such research has mainly been on the conceptual understanding when using ...

  10. IRIS

    Page 5: Visual Representations. Yet another evidence-based strategy to help students learn abstract mathematics concepts and solve problems is the use of visual representations. More than simply a picture or detailed illustration, a visual representation—often referred to as a schematic representation or schematic diagram— is an accurate ...

  11. Unlock the power of visual thinking with visual thinking strategies

    Visual thinking is a cognitive process that utilizes visual and spatial representations to organize, process, and comprehend information. It harnesses the power of visuals to enhance creativity, problem-solving, and communication. This article explores the concept of visual thinking, its strategies, benefits, and how it compares to verbal thinking.

  12. Visual Representation Ideas From Physics

    The diagram helps you explain the role of a leader in assigning tasks to a team. Instead of assigning tasks arbitrarily, let your 'team goal' be the guiding prism to determine the tasks that need to be assigned to accomplish the goal. Using Visual Metaphor in PowerPoint. Example 3: The power of pulleys. A pulley is a wheel on an axle.

  13. Making a TED-Ed Lesson: Visualizing complex ideas

    A visual metaphor, or an idea represented through imagery, can take an idea as massive as Big Data and tie it to the familiar depiction of a growing tree. TED-Ed animators explain how to make an abstract idea come alive visually. Making a TED-Ed Lesson: Visualizing big ideas. Watch on. Think.

  14. What is Visual Thinking? Definition, Strategies, Examples and More

    Visual Thinking: This mode primarily relies on processing information through images, patterns, and spatial relationships. It often involves mental imagery, diagrams, and visual representation to understand and communicate ideas. Verbal Thinking: Verbal thinking is centered on language and words. It involves using language, whether internally ...

  15. Visually Minded: Drawing and Presenting Ideas as Sketchnotes

    "Pouring your information into a visual representation has the benefit of making ideas tangible. It motivates people to have a conversation or discussion about it. It's also a lot easier to spread information this way, as pictures have the power to create a lasting impression within an instant." Jonny Daenen - My background lies in Big Data. I ...

  16. 100+ Creative Presentation Ideas You Can Steal Today

    Below are some education presentation ideas you can use for your next project. Academic Presentation: If you want to educate and share info, then academic presentations with supporting visuals, presentation slides, and videos are what you need. Explainer : Explainers are a powerful way of sharing essential information.

  17. Learning by Drawing Visual Representations: Potential, Purposes, and

    The roles that interpreting a shared visual representation can play in supportive collaboration is well documented (e.g., Roschelle & Teasley, 1995): Learners have a joint focus for attention and can refer to it nonverbally, and this helps overcome fragmented conversation. Thus, it can serve as an anchor from which to develop common ground.

  18. How to Use Visual Collaboration Tools to Generate Creative Ideas

    Mind Mapping using a Visual Collaboration Tool: Create a Central Idea: Start by placing a central idea or topic at the center of your digital canvas within the visual collaboration tool. This idea serves as the focal point for your brainstorming session. Branch Out: Create branches going outward from the central idea.

  19. The 30 Best Data Visualizations of 2024 [Examples]

    1 Nasa's Eyes on Asteroids. Image Source. If you are interested in exploring data visualization topics in space exploration, check out this striking data visualization created by NASA. NASA's Eyes on Asteroids is one of the best data visualizations due to its exceptional design and functionality.

  20. Visual Representations: Unleashing the Power of Data Visualization

    Types of Visual Representation for Improving Conceptual Understanding. Graphs, spider diagrams, cluster diagrams - the list is endless! Each type of visual representation has its specific uses. A mind map template can help you create a detailed illustration of your thought process. It illustrates your ideas or data in an engaging way and ...

  21. 2024's Must-See Visual Presentation Examples to Power Up ...

    Some possible visual presentations include infographics, charts, diagrams, posters, flipcharts, idea board, whiteboards, and video presentation examples. An infographic is a collection of different graphic visual presentations to represent information, data, or knowledge intended more visually quickly and clearly to grab the audience's attention.

  22. 17 Important Data Visualization Techniques

    Bullet Graph. Choropleth Map. Word Cloud. Network Diagram. Correlation Matrices. 1. Pie Chart. Pie charts are one of the most common and basic data visualization techniques, used across a wide range of applications. Pie charts are ideal for illustrating proportions, or part-to-whole comparisons.

  23. Teaching Visual Literacy and Visual Texts in the Classroom

    2. Creation: Empowering Students to Visualize Ideas. Encouraging students to create their own visual representations is a powerful way to enhance their visual literacy skills. By engaging in the process of creating visuals, students not only deepen their understanding of concepts but also develop their ability to communicate ideas effectively.

  24. Types of Data Visualization and Their Uses

    The visual narrative that line charts provide helps analysts, researchers, and casual observers alike to discern patterns within the data, such as cycles or anomalies. Bar Charts and Histograms: Comparing Categories and Distributions Bar charts are highly suitable for representing comparative data. By plotting each category of comparison with a ...