Short course: Creating effective data visualisations

Organised by On Think Tanks
Event type Courses
Location Online
Start date 1 June 2017
End date 29 June 2017

Data visualisations are nothing new – they’ve been helping us to understand the world around us for centuries. But these visualisations are playing an increasingly important role in today’s information-rich society. This is especially true among think tanks, where translating complex ideas and data into accessible and relevant information is at the heart of what they do.

That’s partly because data visualisations can be such an effective way of conveying a lot of information in short period of time. According to Edward Tufte, “the two optic nerves [in the eyes] are sending what we now know are 20 megabits a second of information back to the brain”. The spoken or written word, on the other hand, conveys just bytes per second.

In this module, we will underpin basic data visualisation practice with design theory. We will share examples of how other think tanks around the world have built data visualisations into their communication plans as well as examples of what not to do. We will then move into the practicalities of data visualisation with basic data structuring and improving basic charts in Excel and Google Sheets. And finally we will learn how to make more complex interactive visualisations with Tableau Public.

Who is this for?

This course is designed as an introduction to data visualisation – it is not an intermediate or advanced course and no prior design, data manipulation or coding knowledge is required.

The course may be of particular interest to researchers working to improve the visual display of their research findings or to communication professionals tasked with creating either print or digital research outputs for their organisation.

This course will be most effective for those who have a specific dataset ready to visualize, though sample datasets will also be provided.


This short course consists of the following:

  • A background note introducing key concepts of data visualisation including links to relevant examples and key tools to support their development,
  • An online forum to share comments, experiences and pose questions to trainers and other participants,
  • Three hour-long webinars facilitated by the Jeff Knezovich,
  • Two short homework assignments to test specific practical skills gained during the webinars, and
  • Personalised feedback on a practical exercise to develop a draft of a data visualisation

What will we cover?

The outline of the short course will cover:

Background note on data visualisation: Understanding effective data visualisations for think tanks

  • Introduction to data visualisations: What are they? Why are they important? And how do people and users experience them?
  • Design fundamentals
  • Examples and tools

Forum discussion: The Dos and Don’ts of data visualisations

First webinar: Introduction to data visualisation and design best practice

  • Overview of data visualisations: What are they? Who are they for? What are the different types?
  • Selecting the right type of visualisation for your data

Second webinar: Structuring and manipulating data and improving basic charts in Excel and Google Sheets

  • For charts in Excel we often work with summarized data. But what if you have raw data? And what if you need to combine more than one data set? We will specifically learn how to use vlookup and pivot tables to manipulate your data.
  • Conversely, for Tableau, we need to work with raw data. So we will also explore how best to structure data to work in Tableau.
  • We will apply lessons from the first webinar by improving existing charts in Excel and Google Sheets and making our own based on sample data sets.

Third webinar: Interactive visualisations with Tableau Public

  • Understanding the basic concepts and elements of Tableau Public
  • Using Tableau Public to create basic charts, maps and interactive dashboards

Personal task: Produce a data visualisation using the tools and techniques taught during the course.

Key dates

Kick-off: June 1st, 2017

Webinar 1: June 5th, 2017

Webinar 2: June 15th, 2017

Webinar 3: June 22nd, 2017

Delivery of exercise: June 29th, 2017

The time of the webinars is 3 PM GMT

 Webinars last 75 minutes


DSC_9441Jeff Knezovich: Jeff is a Digital communications strategist and data visualisation specialist currently working at Nuffield Trust in London. He works hard to ensure research in health and international development is timely and relevant for policy-makers and practitioners. He helps develop and implement strategic policy influence approaches and capacities both within his organisation and on a consultancy basis. His core communication skill set lies in the digital space and in synthesising complex information into targeted briefings.

Before joining Nuffield he managed the research uptake activities for a six-year project at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) working to develop health systems across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India and Uganda.

Jeff leads On Think Tanks data visualisation competition and is the author of two compilation on data visualisations for think tanks.

Depending on the format guests will be brought in to provide feedback to the visualisations produced by the participants.


The short course costs GBP 125.00. You may also join by signing up to the entire series of 7 Short Courses at GBP 700.00 for the series.

Early bird registration fee for the course is GBP 105.00 (only for first five registrations) and for the entire series is GBP 600.00 (only for first five registrations)

Check out other Courses in the Evolving Think Tanks Series 2017.

Join the course by registering below through Eventbrite.

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