When creating dashboards, visual elements don’t have to be restricted to the data visualization alone, but can also extend to the titles, legends, labels, and help elements—grabbing readers’ attention and helping them process and understand your visualization faster.
According to Colin Ware in “Visual Thinking for Design,” the average human attention span is only 8 seconds, and our brain processes visual images 60,000 times faster than text. So we should keep this in mind and use pictograms and illustrations in our dashboards when it makes sense. Michelle Borkin, an assistant professor in computer science at Northeastern University, also published a study, that proves that “human-recognizable” objects such as icons, photographs, and logos, help people understand and remember a visualization.
You may be thinking, “I agree, but I’m not a graphic designer and it takes too long to integrate logos, pictograms, icons, or pictures into my dashboards.” Well, I have some good news. With PowerPoint and few clicks, you can create customized professional icons for your data visualization.
For example, in this UNICEF Viz, I used icons as both a menu and a legend.