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I spent two weeks in June with the emergency team at the West and Central Africa Regional Office to provide data visualization support. On the second week, I gave a webinar about data visualization tips to the Humanitarian Performance Monitor (HPM) focal points in West Central Africa Region Country Offices. Below is a quick overview of what I discussed.


Data visualization is not only about what we see. Data collection, mining, cleaning, validating is very important in creating effective visualizations. However, I focused on the visualization part.

Let’s start with very basic tips. Visualization should be able to stand on its own and tell a story. The viewer should get a big picture without reading anything else and it does not have to be fancy. Simple charts and graphs can be as effective as other visualization. Also, do not forget to give visualization clear title, labels and keys.

Now, I will break down into different chart and graph types.

Thermometer Graph

Used for representing goal reaching data such as funding or target. When trying to visualize two different data in one visual, make sure they are also differentiated visually.



Pie Chart

Used in two different ways: Used to show division within a same pool and used to show same data in different size of pool to see the comparison. It should mostly be used to show “piece of the pie.”

Proportional Symbols and Heat map

Used to show range of change and range of degree. Set the range in maximum of 5 different ranges for both proportional symbols and heat maps, because when there isn’t significant size or color difference it is hard to tell the difference between the ranges.




Used when data has spatial information and tells a geographical story. A map is not always needed, but it is helpful when you have to find out what is going on where, so you can either take an action or find a cause.


Minsun Mini Kim, Interaction Design Fellow at Innovation Unit
work | blog | @minsunmini

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