A copy-paste table

A copy-paste table

When you copy a table from a spreadsheet tool and paste it into your presentation you are likely to paste grid lines and alternate row colors there, too. These features provide precise orientation in a large table, that’s how they help while working with it. A presentation is a different situation, though, in which people see your table for the first time. They appreciate a rather rough visual structure to have an easy time processing what they see.

This example, originating from an outsourcing project, makes the case. The blue stripes superimpose the activity type structure and make it practically invisible. But there are other issues, too. The title promises “transformation levers”, which aren’t mentioned further down. They start at the fifth column. The calculation goes “As is” minus all the transformation levers = “Future state”. So these levers are FTE cuts. For many readers it will take ages to figure this out. Some visual guidance, such as a gap or a headline or both, would be of great help here.

Structure by content, not at random

Without all that blue we can clearly see the two main categories, one with two processes and one with a few more. We have introduced a unit of measure, which clarifies upfront what numbers we are looking at. Vertically we have two blocks with headers distinguishing between staff and non-staff. The word “reduction” indicates that the values below are to be understood as negative.

A copy-paste table

But now we have to look at those benefits down there. The blue arrow sums up the cuts that lead from “As is” to “Future state”. Reductions, as per our structure, belong to the right half of the chart, not to the left. At the same time, the arrow contains the message that this chart is supposed to convey – and the message’s place is the title!

A chart with a message

In the final version the title advertises the overall effect of the transformation and corresponds with a single highlight.

A copy-paste table

A piece of work material has become a communication medium by

  • eliminating redundant design elements
  • visualizing the structure of the content
  • emphasizing the message visually