We love graphs. Here’s why you should too.

Scott West

Studio Manager

Posted on February 26, 2016

Most people working in the financial industry tend to think of graphs as a bit of a bane. Boring and necessary when your business involves endless, complex data, but hardly something to be admired or enjoyed. They provide a useful function, but that’s about it.

You can tell this is the general feeling because most of the graphs produced by financial organisations look pretty much the same. We’ve got used to seeing the typical Microsoft Excel-generated representations of spreadsheet data. The odd change of colour and font and forays into 3D, but not much variation beyond that. We’ve all scanned over them in reports, brochures or briefings and not given them much further thought.

I think this is a wasted opportunity. I’m going to talk you through why giving graphs such low priority could mean you miss out and offer some suggestions to help you change the way you use them.

Brain bias

If we stop thinking of graphs as just data representations, we can start to realise their potential. Graphs are pictures. As we’ve talked about previously on our blog, a staggering 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. We process these visuals 60,000X faster in the brain than text and are also 30X more likely to look at them on the page. This synaptic bias is something that all marketers and communicators should be getting on their side.

Graphs, then, are a communication opportunity. They can bypass disinterest, fatigue, busyness, and communicate complex ideas and data, fast. They should make us pay attention, because if they don’t, it’s unlikely the text supporting them will do a better job. If we’re skimming over them, they’re falling short.

Branding blind spots

Moving beyond our automatic cerebral processing, we’re also aesthetic creatures. Our eyes are drawn to things that are visually appealing and we use what’s visual to make judgements and form connections, often unconsciously. All businesses keep this understanding at the forefront of their brand development. We know that colours, style, imagery, and maintaining consistency between all those elements while keeping them engaging are what help clients and customers get to know us, understand what we’re about, and develop trust and confidence.

So why do we ignore these lessons when it comes to making our graphs? Do we just forget? Run out of time? Think they’re not as important as all our other branding? All of the above?

Our solution

Stop using Excel. If we treat graphs like the powerful images they are, or could be, then we need image production software to produce them well. That’s why we use Adobe Illustrator to create all our graphs, with its array of tools specially designed for vector-based creations and illustrations.

And here’s the thing not every Excel fan knows: you can input and use your data to create your graphs just like you’re used to in Excel. No manually typing hundreds of lines of data with the chance of getting it wrong and distorting the outcome. We can take any data spreadsheet supplied to us and import it straight into Illustrator to begin the creation of a beautiful and easy to understand graph or infographic.

And there’s no reason you can’t either!

Simple tutorials available online can help get you started.

“But that’s going to take longer to produce!” you may say. True, it will take a little longer, but by investing a bit more time and care in your graphs, we guarantee you’ll get something back. Increased engagement, a boost to your brand identity, more people remembering and understanding the data that could swing your deal or presentation – take your pick.

It’s worth it, we promise.