7.9. Eliminating Distractions: Data-ink Ratio
Let's talk about eliminating distractions with a concept called Data-Ink Ratio, introduced by Edward Tufte in 1983.
Data-Ink is the non-erasable core of a graphic—the part of a visualization that actually displays data. If you remove Data-Ink, you remove essential information from the graph.
The Data-Ink Ratio compares the ink used to show data with the total ink used to render the graphic. The goal is to eliminate unnecessary elements without losing any value.
Take a look at a cluttered chart and think about what you can remove without losing its meaning. You might consider getting rid of background colors, shadows, gridlines, or even the Y-axis if data labels are already present. Removing these elements creates a cleaner, more straightforward visualization.
Think about which lines, backgrounds, or borders you can remove to make it more readable. Also, consider whether all the displayed metrics are necessary. Do they all contribute to the story you're trying to tell? Simplify the chart by removing redundant metrics and adjusting scales for better readability. Adjust colors and line thicknesses to make the chart even clearer.
The key takeaway is to always focus on showing the data.
When creating a visualization, ask yourself if you're communicating information or just adding visual elements for the sake of it.
Strive to make your charts clean, easy to read, and focused on the data that matters most.