Lessons by Wong

In this semester’s class we have covered many topics, but probably the most applicable one for me was when we read the “Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics” by Dona M. Wong. The book contained information I could begin using that day. In engineering, dealing with data is essential for almost every job.

This topic has already helped me this year. Wong taught me about graphs and how to properly display data. In my material science lab we are constantly producing graphs. The main parameter for the charts is that they must be clear and concise. Wong has definitely helped me keep my charts simple by avoiding clutter, keeping texts simple, and formatting with clearness in mind. In other classes I have been working on final reports where I have created several graphs and charts that I know are much better quality than I could have done before this class. I was working on a final PowerPoint with a partner for an applied entrepreneurship class and we created a pie graph for demonstration purposes. Earlier in the year I would have said it looked great, but after learning the proper formatting I could not settle with less than the best, so I spent the following five minutes teaching about all the nuances to creating good pie graphs.

The book is a must read. It is short and concise but brings up ideas that could be easily overlooked. The book can be found here.

As engineers, a big part of our job is to collect data to prove or deny a theory or new concept.  Now with modern data acquisition systems, it is much easier to collect large quantities of data. The more data the better for engineers.  However, often times this data has to be translated to non-engineers or others who may just want the answer to their questions rather than a portfolio of numbers. For this reason it is important to have the skills necessary to convey information quickly and accurately to those who may not understand tables of data. In my field of work it will be essential that I be able to display data clearly and concisely with simple charts and graphs. A few methods I will use are keeping the largest portion of a pie chart on top using a coloring scheme that is based on shades not hues, no overlapping text, clear fonts, and simple lines.

-Ben Yager