Brumberger’s critical piece on teaching business student’s data visualizations presents complications about software usage in cases of charts and graphs. While complex data visualization creation may be necessary, another approach may help ease students into the understanding of visual rhetoric surrounding data. This approach, involving simple data statistics, creates a representation of the data through color and icons and allows the student to analyze the visual aspects of the data before, during, and after creation. This may be preferred in situations where students need an introduction to the visual elements first, before proceeding on a more technical assignment.
Take, for example, the image above. It is a social media post that also includes a data visual representing the digital divide as it occurs along economic lines. Two key pieces of data are presented: the percentage for internet access in households with less than $20,000 a year in income and the percentage for internet access in households with more than $100,000 a year in income. This data could be represented as a graph or a pie chart, but the designer of this piece used the visual image of a computer and “filled” it with color according to the percentage of households with internet access.
The “percentages” represented visually are more impactful and do not require an intermediate or advanced specific skill set in a specific program—making it an easy exercise for students to use as an introduction to representing data visually. It also gives them an opportunity to analyze that representation. For example, Brumberger lists several areas that should be analyzed/addressed when creating these images:
Using these elements, students can quickly analyze this social media post’s graphics. Visual design elements are consistent with basic practices (including color, repetition, and emphasis). The design choices reflect the rhetorical situation—a political social media post to an audience who cares deeply about logos and pathos—using “patriotic” colors to speak to both purpose and context. The document form, a social media graphic, is used appropriately and follows genre conventions using a square image, icons, and large fonts. The purposeful use of white space divides headers and data.