Stephen Few Information Visualisation Workshops in London July 2011

If your job involves any kind of data visualisation from simple Excel charts to fully interactive management dashboards, you need to make sure that the way you display your data is as clear, unambiguous and effortless (to produce and to interpret) as possible.

Last year I attended three days of workshops by one of the foremost proponents of best practices in information visualisation, Stephen Few, founder of Perceptual Edge. Although I already had two of his books and had devoured their contents, there’s nothing like in-person training to highlight the most important ideas and make them stick. If you missed out last time around, Stephen is back in the UK from 6th to 8th July 2011, and in Vienna from 5th to 7th October.

In between interactive question and answer sessions, and some individual and group workshop time there was plenty of explanation of current understanding of how the human brain works to interpret visual displays of data. This combination of applicable, real-world best practice, backed by solid theory and research is a sound approach to take – you want to know that the ideas and principles under discussion are not just one person’s strongly-held viewpoint, but demonstrably better for interpreting, analysing, understanding and communicating your business or research data.

I already used many of the techniques which were discussed, and even teach others how to achieve these in practical situations, such as using workarounds to get Excel to do some pretty advanced chart displays, get better reports out of Dynamics CRM, and use clear visualisations when producing presentations. I still learned a great deal though, and came away from these workshops with a much clearer set of tools to explain to people how to better understand the information in your data (for analysis and decision making) and communicate this to others clearly (for reporting or dashboard style displays).

Stephen Few has many years of experience in this field, both in academic circles (he teaches in the MBA program at the University of California) and with businesses and corporations in many different industries. His mastery of the subject, leisurely delivery and down-to-earth style made these workshops as enjoyable as they were educational.

The three workshops (which map closely in content to three of Stephen’s books) are:

Show Me the Numbers: Table and Graph Design

Dashboard Design for at-a-Glance Monitoring

Now You See It: Visual Data Analysis

I highly recommend you to go on whichever of the three is most directly applicable to your role, or better still to do all three to get a fantastic all-round understanding of different aspects of this subject. You can find out more from marketingQED who organise these events over here:

Stephen Few: Information Visualisation Workshops 2011

If you can’t get to all three days, or want to do some prior reading, take a look at Stephen’s books here (note, the courses themselves each include a copy of the relevant book to take away, so you might not want to get them before attending unless you know someone who would love to take a copy of your hands afterwards!): – books by Stephen Few

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