Intended audience

The last question to ask in defining the graph objective is critical to every information system.

The graph is meant to bring new information to the user and not the designer. This is a user-centred information system. Therefore, the audience and the outlet of dissemination directly determines the presentation of the information.

As Cleveland (1983, p.1) aptly explains:

No matter how clever the choice of the information, and no matter how technologically impressive the encoding, a visualization fails if the decoding fails”.

If a data graph is intended for broad distribution, then its decoding would only be successful if the choice of encoding is ubiquitous. 

Any novel graphical method must be accompanied by a simplified guide to accommodate quick training prior decoding. As an example, Florence Nightingale’s rose was a striking innovation for its time, and for this reasons she was careful to publish the graph with an a detailed annotation on how one should decode visual information.

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Demetris Christodoulou