How to Create a Technical Graphic
Graphics, such as bar graphs, pie charts, and line charts, can be a very powerful tool to convey a lot of information. Technical graphics are very common in communications written in engineering, science, and other technical fields. Because they are common in the workplace and in technical fields, it is important to know how to create effective, technical graphics that show your information in a clear and concise way.
Planning Your Graphic
Figure out what objectives your graphic could help you accomplish.This step can help you figure out where and when to integrate your graphic in a text or presentation, and how many graphics you need to create in order to easily get your point across to your targeted audience. For example, you can use graphics to show trends and relationships, explain processes, or show readers how something looks. Hypothetically, if you are presenting all three of these aspects, you now know that your presentation or text will need to contain multiple graphics.
Choose the type of graph that is most appropriate for your data.Your graph will be much more effective if you think about what you want your audience to learn from the graphic. For example, let's say you want to compare the profits of three different companies over a set amount of time, where one company has a large volume of sales compared to the other two, which have a lower, and also similar amount of sales A line chart works best to show trends in continuous data. In other words, a line chart would effectively show the trend of increasing sales of the company with large profits, because our time variable is at a constant, fixed increase, and we can accurately determine the amount of increase from month to month. If you wanted to categorize the companies, and compare elements of the categories, a bar graph would work best, but is less effective in showing the difference in sales between the two companies with similar volumes of profit than a line chart. Using another example in the graphic above, the line shows a trend in batting average effectively, whereas the bars of the graphic don't really illustrate an up and down trend in innings played clearly. Rather, the bars do a better job in categorizing two different factors in innings played. In addition, if you wanted to find and use data or facts, you would use a table, whereas if you wanted to see the relative size comparison of different variables, you would use a pie chart.
Sketch out the foundation for your graphic.Here, you only need a rough draft of things to come before you start the major editing. For example, simply decide what variables will go on the X and Y axes, and draw a rough sketch of your data values. Make notes on what you would like to include in your graphic, and how you would want to illustrate that information.This step will help you get an initial idea of what your graphic will look like before you start making major changes.
Set yourself deadlines.Now that you have a plan on what your graphic will look like and illustrate, set yourself some deadlines. Creating a technical graphic that can convey information easily and effectively can be a long process, but also a complex one. Setting yourself goals to get tasks done will help you organize yourself when creating your graphic, and will make your graphic more organized in the long run.
Creating a Clear and Concise Graphic
Think about the amount and complexity of your graphic's data.It is important to consider your reader's knowledge and understanding of the material. You can have the most clear and eye-catching graph out there, but if it includes data that is hard for your audience to understand, that will render your graphic completely ineffective. Be sure to simplify your graphic as much as possible. Use as little material as possible to get to the point, and make sure your data is not too complex for your reader's to understand. This will also help you to utilize white space, which will make your graphic look open, neat, and spacious, like in the image above. While the graphic above does not hold the most information, almost anyone could look at it and easily comprehend it because of its simplicity.
Graph and check your data.Graphing your actual data values onto a graph is pretty simple. However, make sure your data is correct after you have graphed it. This is the foundation of your graphic, and it tells your audience your story, so it needs to be on point. Look for strange data values or outliers. If you find some, verify them, or correct them if necessary.
Label your important necessary content.These labels will allow your audience to navigate your graphic quickly, and will increase their understanding of your information. Label your axes, and label your rows, columns, lines, or slices. Label only the info that the readers absolutely need to obtain to understand the graph. Keep text and numbering as minimal as possible. The less unnecessary detail you have in your graphic, the clearer and less cluttered your graphic will be.
Title your graph.The last thing you should do is include an informative title. Because you have already verified your data and labeled your graphic, you can now tailor your title to fit the information that shows on the graphic. It is important to do this after you included all other necessary text and values so you can relate your title to the data you provided as much as possible. Be sure to keep the title short an professional. Many graphics actually skip titles entirely. Make sure you actually include a title, because it tells the reader what to expect from your graphic, and allows them to prepare for the information to come, making the presentation of your graphic more effective. In addition, it is less professional not to include a title. For example, while the graphic above is clear and concise, there is no title, which means that we as readers have no idea what this graphic is supposed to represent, which makes this relatively simple graph very difficult to comprehend.
Adding Final Touches To Your Graphic
Integrate color into your graphic.Now that you have a basic graphic down, you can add color as one of your final touches. Utilizing color can help you highlight important points in your graphic, group related items, and make your graphic more attractive. Try not to use black or gray; bright colors such as yellow, orange, or green will focus your audience more effectively. Color things such as the bars in a bar graph or the lines in a line chart. Keep the background white in order to create a contrast. While we can't see what the variables are in the graphic above, the graphic utilizes color to differentiate these unknown variables.
Make your graphic organized using arrows and keys.If your text and labels seem cluttered within the graphic, try keeping them outside the graphic to keep things more organized. Try using a color key to represent text, or arrows to point text and labels to their corresponding parts of the graphic. For example, imagine trying to fit all the labels of the graphic above into the graphic itself. It would be an absolute mess! The graphic avoids this by creating a color key and utilizing the colors to represent the different variables.
Use explanations if necessary.Explanations can help your audience understand the material in your graphic better, and can elaborate on the information. Use this step only if the material is complex enough to call for an explanation.
Cite your sources.Whatever data you used for your graphic needs to be cited to avoid plagiarism.
Proofread your graphic.Check if your graphic is up to par. Check the spelling of your text, labels, and title. Check your data again to see if it's correct. Make sure your graphic utilizes white space and is not cluttered.
- You can simplify your graphic by including the least amount of material as possible per graphic. If necessary, you can accomplish this by separating one graphic into multiple graphics. This will be a more effective representation that is easier to read and understand. You can further simplify your graphic by excluding unnecessary details.
- For example, don't worry too much about prose or eloquence. Use simple and concise labeling instead. Including long lines of texts can make your graphic confusing. As for the graphic itself, use only the absolute essentials. For example, removing lines, borders, and bolding can make your graphic simpler and surprisingly more attractive.
- Do not use this step if your text is integrated in a clear and concise way. The arrows and keys would be unnecessary in this situation, and you want to try to eliminate any unnecessary detail from your graphic.
- Use color to emphasize and group items, not for decoration. This may cause you to integrate too much color into your graphic, which might draw your reader's attention away from your message, and therefore make your graphic less effective. Graphics with excessively vivid coloring are known to be more difficult to read.
Video: Introduction to Technical Analysis for Beginners
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