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How to Take Your Data Visualization Skills to the Next Level

Updated on: Sep 17th, 2019
Dashboards, Data Visualization, Presentations, Reports
Enrollment for our annual membership is open.

In my sixth year of self-employment, the demand for data visualization skills is stronger than ever. 

Are you ready to take your organization’s data communications skills to the next level? 

The once-a-year enrollment period is now open for Great Graphs: Transform Spreadsheets into Stories. 

This online training program includes a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. 

Watch the recorded lessons whenever it’s convenient for you. Pause the videos. Re-watch them as many times as you need. Practice along with me using the spreadsheets, graph templates, handouts, and ebook. 

Then, join me and your fellow students live webinars twice each month. We’ll meet over Zoom to hold both Office Hours Q&A sessions and Power Hour productivity sprints. 

Depict Data Studio's Great Graphs course logo.

What’s Included 

This training program is about classic data visualization principles and practical software how-tos and advanced techniques like applying data visualization principles to reports, slideshows, infographics, and dashboards. 

I’ve spent the past 10 years teaching myself all of these tricks. I took seminars. I checked out books from the library. I sat through hundreds of (really bad) conference presentations. I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.

This  training program is a shortcut. I’ll teach you what it took me a decade to learn on my own. 

Here’s what’s included in your annual membership

  • 200+ recorded lessons to watch at the day and time of your choosing 
  • 20+ hours of video 
  • Instant access to all the recorded lessons 
  • Live Office Hours sessions each month 
  • Live Power Hour productivity sprints each month 
  • Optional 1:1 consultations 
  • Downloadable spreadsheets, templates, & handouts 
  • Software-agnostic data visualization principles 
  • Before/after makeovers inspired by research, evaluation, and analytics teams like yours 
  • Examples from a variety of industries (public health, government, education, grantmaking, international development, hospitals, universities, and more) 
  • Practical how-tos in Excel, PowerPoint, Tableau, & R 
  • License for the 200+ page ebook 
  • Team of 18+ instructors 

Course 1: Data Visualization Design Principles 

Your membership includes a bundle of courses. One of the courses focuses on software-agnostic data visualization design principles.

We’ll go broad and deep. You’ll learn about everything from choosing the right chart type for your desired takeaway message, to formatting that chart so that your message shines, to combining multiple graphs in dashboards, infographics, slideshows, reports, and one-pagers. 

Analyze Your Audience

The first topic is Analyze Your Audience. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all visualization. You’ll need to tweak, tweak, tweak to get the approach right for each of your difference audience types. You’ll learn what types of questions to ask during the planning phase of your project, like whether your viewers are technical or non-technical, what types of comparison data points could be provided, and whether your audiences are expecting a story. 

Image of a 'before and after' line graph with the title 'Are Viewers Expecting a Story?'

Choose the Right Dissemination Format

The second topic is Choose the Right Dissemination Format. You’ll think about which format–a report, dashboard, infographic, one-pager, etc.–is best for each type of audience that you’re trying to reach. You’ll get downloadable worksheets like my Audience Crosswalk and Communications Plan.

Image of a presentation slide titled 'Which Format is Best for Each Viewer?' Reports, Dashboards, Infographs, etc.

Choose the Right Chart

The next topic is Choose the Right Chart.

Chart-choosing is such an important skill, and it’s a skill that must be practiced over time (not learned overnight). 

You’ll learn practical skills for exploring preliminary patterns with sparklines, data bars, and heat tables in regular ol’ spreadsheet programs.

You’ll also learn techniques for transforming tables into visuals, for avoiding a (boring) report that’s just full of bar charts, and for experimenting with new-ish chart types like tile grid maps and Sankey diagrams. 

Image of a presentation slide. Design alternatives are to the left.

Select a Software Program

In Select a Software Program, I’ll provide an overview of my favorite software programs so you can understand the strengths and weaknesses of the major players in the market. 

Image of a chartmaker tool to utilize. Ann K. Emery is presenting at the bottom right hand corner.


In Declutter, I’ll give you permission to delete a lot of unnecessary ink! You’ll also learn about the finer points of decluttering that I never have time to cover during workshops, like decluttering visuals for scientific journals. 

Image of a presentation slide titled 'Remove Redundant Labels'. Ann K. Emery is presenting at the bottom right corner.


In Color, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek into designer jargon like RGB, HEX, PMS, and CMYK codes, oh my!

You’ll learn how to read your existing style guide.

I’ll also cover techniques that I never have time to cover during workshops, like how to choose color palettes from scratch for your reports, slideshows, and dashboards if you don’t have a style guide.

You’ll also learn about 508 compliance, like how to test your visuals for sufficient foreground/background contrast, colorblindness legibility, and grayscale legibility using accessibility checkers. 

A presentation slide instructing how to 'Ensure Legibility in Grayscale'.


In Text, you’ll learn the basics like writing titles, subtitles, and annotations that encapsulate your key finding.

You’ll also learn advanced nuances, like when to use right, left, centered, or justified text; when to use title case, sentence case, or all caps; and how to strategically place text beside graphs (rather than making viewers search through long paragraphs to find your key phrases).

We’ll also measure your draft’s reading grade level and practice translating the research methods terminology we learned in grad school for the non-researchers who are using our data. 

Image of a presentation slide on data visualization. Ann K. Emery is presenting at the bottom right corner.

Before/After Data Visualization Makeovers

In Before/After Data Visualization Makeovers, we’ll apply the skills you’ve learned in previous segments.

You’ll see “before” graphs that are similar to graphs I’ve encountered while consulting to foundations, nonprofits, universities, and government agencies over the past decade.

Then, you’ll see how I choose different chart types, declutter, and apply color and text strategically to complete overhaul each graph. 

Course 2: Data Visualization How-To’s in Excel 

This is primarily a software-agnostic course, meaning that you can (and should!) apply the principles to any and all software programs. 

I don’t want the how-to side to feel like a stumbling block for you.  

It’s actually really easy to make effective data visualizations inside software you already have, like Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. You just need to be exposed to the behind-the-scenes magic. 

Your annual membership includes tons of how-to tutorials, including… 

  • 8 lessons on spark lines 
  • 7 lessons on data bars 
  • 11 “getting started” lessons on bar charts (including FAQs like applying branded colors, branded fonts, and moving the chart from Excel into Word or PowerPoint without any weird formatting issues) 
  • 7 lessons on waffle charts 
  • 18 lessons on dot plots (including lessons on dot plots with and without connecting lines… lessons on creating one, two, or more sets of dots… lessons on using arrows to connect the dots and emphasize directionality…. and so on) 

You can watch all the recorded lessons around your own schedule–they’re available immediately after you register–and you can also adapt the templates provided for your own projects. Yes, that means you get to keep all the spreadsheets that I use during the recordings.

Request How-To Tutorials to be Added

I’ll be adding how-to lessons regularly throughout the year based on your special requests.  

I’ve had requests to add lessons on stacked bar charts, diverging stacked bar charts, small multiples bar charts, small multiples line charts, and heat tables. 

Register to get access to all the Excel how-to tips. 

Image of a presentation slide on data visualization. Ann K. Emery is presenting at the bottom right corner.

Course 3: Advanced Lessons from Guest Experts 

You’ll hear from me and from guest experts. 

The guest experts work in a variety of different industries and they specialize in a variety of different software programs. 

Lyssa Wilson Becho

Lyssa Wilson Becho is a project manager at The Evaluation Center and a Doctoral Candidate in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation at Western Michigan University. Her interests lie in improving the way we conduct evaluation through research on evaluation theories and methods, as well as creating useful and understandable evaluation reports through information design. She is dedicated to empowering programs to tell their story through increasing evaluation capacity, data literacy, and general excitement about the power of evaluation. 

Lyssa and Emma Perk will teach you about creating one-page reports: 

Image of guest presenters Lyssa Wilson Becho (left) and Emma Perk (right).
Image of guest presenters Lyssa Wilson Becho (left) and Emma Perk (right).

Isaac D. Castillo 

Isaac D. Castillo is the Director of Outcomes, Assessment, and Learning at Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP). Isaac has over 20 years of performance management, evaluation, and outcome measurement experience. Prior to coming to VPP, Isaac served as the Deputy Director for the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) and as a Senior Research Scientist at Child Trends where he worked with nonprofits throughout the United States on the development and modification of performance management systems and evaluation designs. In addition, Isaac was also the Director of Learning and Evaluation for the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) where he led the organization’s evaluation and performance management work. Isaac received his B.S. in Human Resources Management from Syracuse University and a M.S. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Rochester. Isaac is a member of the American Evaluation Association and serves on the Board of Directors for the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS) and the Superstar Foundation. You can follow Isaac on Twitter at: @isaac_outcomes 

Amy Cesal 

Amy Cesal is a graphic designer specializing in data visualization. She’s currently a contractor with Ad Hoc and was previously a Technology and Innovation Fellow at CFPB. Before government, Amy worked at the Sunlight Foundation, where she created one of the first style guides specifically for data visualization. Amy also holds a master’s degree in Information Visualization from the Maryland Institute College of Art. 

Chris Lysy 

Chris Lysy is a professional data designer and illustrator constantly exploring the overlap between contemporary design practice, digital communications, and data science. You will find examples of Chris’ work and his cartoons at freshspectrum.com. 

Kylie Hutchinson 

Kylie Hutchinson took her first course in evaluation in 1988 and was forever hooked. After winning the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Student Competition and several years of working for nonprofits, she leapt into evaluation consulting. For many years she delivered the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Essential Skills Series in British Columbia and has provided training on a variety of evaluation topics for organizations such as the American Evaluation Association, Canadian Evaluation Society, African Evaluation Society, Danish Evaluation Society, and the US Centres for Disease Control. Kylie has a passion for translating evaluation theory into practical tips and products for evaluators in the trenches including a mobile learning course on evaluation for senior managers. She is the author of A Short Primer on Innovative Evaluation Reporting, Evaluation Failures: 22 Tales of Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned, and Survive and Thrive: Three Steps to Securing Your Program’s Sustainability. Kylie tweets regularly on evaluation topics at @EvaluationMaven. 

Kylie teaches the “Is Anyone Reading Your Report?” module and offers practical suggestions for making your results sticky.

Image of presentation slide from guest presenter Kylie Hutchinson titled 'Is Anyone Reading Your Report?'

David Keyes, Ph.D. 

David Keyes is the founder of R for the Rest of Us. Through online courses, workshops, and custom trainings, he helps people and organizations learn R, the most powerful tool for data analysis and visualization (which also happens to be free). In addition to training folks to use R, David offers data visualization services. Working with foundations, research and evaluation organizations, and others, David’s clear and compelling visualization of data helps organizations to increase their impact. Connect with David on Twitter @dgkeyes and follow R for the Rest of Us for tips on starting your R journey @rfortherest

David teaches the R module, and he covers why you might consider learning R as well as how to actually get started with coding in R.

Image of guest expert David Keyes' presentation slide 'Why Use R?'

David Napoli 

David Napoli has worked with data for over 20 years as an analyst, actuary, statistician, research manager, and director. His experience includes evaluation and outcomes studies, ROI analysis, IBNR determination, predictive modeling, risk adjustment methodologies, advanced data visualization, dashboard design and implementation, database development and management, and identifying and evaluating trends and forces in data. David has extensive experience working with claims data, including for Medicaid, Medicare, and Commercial lines of business. He recently held the position of Director of Business Intelligence for a nonprofit health plan. David’s educational background includes Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering (yes – he was a rocket scientist), and early in his career he realized he desired to concentrate his professional efforts in an industry focused on helping people more than his fondness for space exploration. He also completed coursework towards his doctorate in Health Services Research with a focus on Biostatistics at the University of Colorado School of Public Health (All but Dissertation), and teaches Data Analytics and Data Visualization courses part-time for General Assembly and the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Emma Perk 

Emma Perk is the co-principal investigator for EvaluATE, the evaluation support center for the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program and co-creator of Creating One-Page Reports. Her interests lie in improving evaluation communication to increase use through data visualization, data storytelling, and document design. She serves as EvaluATE’s co-principal investigator, project manager, and outreach coordinator. She also leads the evaluation for two Upward Bound grants located in Southwest Michigan. 

Echo Rivera, Ph.D. 

Dr. Echo Rivera has a PhD in Community Psychology and over 12 years of research and evaluation experience. Through her work in academic and applied settings, she noted a widespread need for more effective presentations that went beyond text, templates, and bullet points. Her goal is to increase the impact and use of information across a variety of disciplines, such as academia, science, evaluation, and social research. Her strategies will help you learn how to tell data-based stories that will resonate and increase the likelihood that your audience will actually understand, remember, and use your information. 

Echo teaches a deep dive on presentation skills and slide design.

Guest speaker, Echo's slide highlights how she approaches Graphic Design by incorporating info design and psychology. Image is of a dog (symbolizing your audience) eating a treat (symbolizing your slides).

Sheila B. Robinson, Ed.D. 

Sheila B. Robinson, Ed.D of Custom Professional Learning, LLC, is an educator, consultant, and program evaluator with a passion for professional learning. She designs and facilitates professional development courses on program evaluation, survey design, data visualization, and presentation design. Sheila is an active American Evaluation Association member where she is Lead Curator and content writer for AEA365 Tip-A-Day By and For Evaluators, their daily blog on program evaluation, and Coordinator of the Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i). She is also a regular content writer for Frontline Education. Sheila has taught graduate courses on program evaluation and professional development design at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. Her book, Designing Quality Survey Questions was published by SAGE Publications in 2018. 

Sheila teaches a deep dive on photographs, showing you sources for finding high quality photographs and how to pair graphs with photographs.

Presentation slide from guest Sheila B. Robinson 'Picture Perfect Pairings: Great Graphs and Great Photographs!'

Elissa Schloesser 

Elissa Schloesser helps transform your complex info and smart ideas into enlightening designs. She brings over 10 years of experience creating information graphics and designs that effectively communicate plans, make educational resources more engaging, and report results in a meaningful way. She holds a Master of Planning in Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Science in Design. Learn more about her work at https://myvisualvoice.biz/

Elissa teaches a module on designing covers for reports. You’ll learn how to craft report titles and to choose images that reflect your desired tone and messaging.

Image is a slide from guest expert Elissa Schloesser titled 'Make a Great First Impression: Report Cover Design 101'.

Jon Schwabish, Ph.D. 

Jon Schwabish is an economist, writer, teacher, and creator of policy-relevant data visualizations. He is considered a leading voice for clarity and accessibility in how researchers communicate their findings. His book Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks helps people improve the way they prepare, design, and deliver data-rich content. He is on Twitter @jschwabish. 

Image of a slide. Pictured is a white table with a plant on it. Expert presenter Jon Schwabish is presenting at the bottom right corner.

Nick Visscher 

Nick Visscher currently works at Denver Zoo as the Audience Research & Evaluation Manager. Before moving to Denver Nick taught graduate courses in Audience Research in the Museology Graduate Program at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was at UW that Nick fell in love with data visualization and effective presentation design. In life there’s nothing quite as satisfying as discovering a new trick in Excel or PowerPoint, so Nick hopes his lessons introduce you to some helpful tips you can use in your own reporting work.  

Guest expert slide titled 'Embedding Fonts'.

Deven Wisner 

Deven Wisner is a capacity builder for data-driven decision making across a variety of disciplines, including regulatory consulting, human capital, finance, and marketing. In addition to overseeing Human Capital & Business Analytics for two organizations and acting as the Principal consultant for Wisner Analytics, Deven teaches at the University of Arizona, South. At the root of all his work is a passion or empowering individuals to utilize evidence-based decision making as an effective method for achieving their goals and objectives. 

Pictured is Devin Wisner at the bottom right corner presenting on Tableau.

License to Download the 200+ Page Ebook 


I used to sell my book separately.  

Now, every annual membership comes with a license to download the Great Graphs ebook.  

You’ll get 200+ pages of dataviz tips and before/after makeovers. 

An image of Ann K. Emery's 200 page ebook.

Live “Office Hours” Sessions Each Month


I used to reserve Office Hours webinars for students who purchased higher tiers of the course. Now, I’m making those live sessions available to everyone at every tier. 

Join me and your fellow tribe members for monthly Office Hours sessions.  

You’ll get conversational, stress-free advice about your project every month for the duration of your membership.  

I schedule the sessions at various days and times to accommodate everyone’s schedules.  

Sessions are recorded, so if you can’t make the live session, you can watch it later. 

Watch the recorded lessons at your own pace and then join the live sessions to connect with colleagues from around the globe. 

Blended learning is the best learning.  

Image reads 'Office Hours: conversational Q&A about your project'

Live “Power Hour” Productivity Sprints Each Month 


This year, I’m also offering monthly Power Hour productivity sessions for everyone at every tier.  

Webcams on, inboxes off.  

We’ll each work on our own data projects during these focused productivity sprints.  

And, of course, you can ask me questions about your project during these sessions. 

I want you to succeed. Focused work time with instant feedback from the instructor will take your projects to the next level. 

Image reads 'Power Hour- pomodoro-style productivity sprints'

Optional 1:1 Consultations 


In the past, I offered a single 1:1 consultation to students who purchased the highest tier of the course. 

Now, I’m offering four 1:1 consultations to those students. 

This means you’ll have the option of connecting with me every quarter to discuss your individual project in a pressure-free setting. 

Have you ever wanted to pick my brain? Do you have questions about your own project? Do you need a second set of eyes to review your visualizations? 

Borrow my brain. You’ll receive my undivided attention. 

What Students Are Saying 

2,285+ researchers, evaluators, and analysts have taken online courses with me. 

Here’s what some recent students are saying. 

Judi Ekkert
Judi Ekkert

This time last year I was struggling to decide (i) whether to spend money on a course to help me improve my data visualization skills and (ii) which one. Ann’s Great Graphs course exceeded my expectations and helped me improve my Excel skills as well. The yearlong course is well paced. The extra material in the monthly webinars was a super how-to to put the tools into practical use and provided the opportunity to ask questions. Having access to the webinars allowed me to go back and catch a few nifty Excel tricks that I hadn’t noticed during the webinar, saving me tonnes of time and frustration. Ann is fast and efficient! The course is well worth the time and money. Be prepared with your ideas and set aside time to follow along. You will be amazed at how much you can learn as the year flies by. Thank you Ann!” 

- Judi Ekkert, Environmental Health Officer, Interior Health 

John R. Heberger
John R. Heberger

“I would often see charts, graphs, and other data visuals in journal articles, and think to myself, ‘Wow, this is horrible; I have no idea what I am supposed to learn from this!” But I had no idea how to make it better or offer constructive suggestions

After just the first few weeks of Great Graphs, I learned about how to select the best type of graph and how to make it visually appealing to the intended audience. 

My own publications and posters have also benefited—no more hard-to-read charts filled with clutter! 

The videos were easy to follow along and the detailed blog posts with Excel hacks saved me a ton of time. 

Thank you Ann and I cannot wait to take your next course!” 

- John R. Heberger, Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Student Transformations 

Want to see what participants like you have accomplished after taking courses with me? 

I love how Emily Rose Barter, Britani Baker, and Danci Greene used an iterative process to hone the perfect data visualization

And Meihsi Chiang and Nikole Lobb Dougherty used some of my tips and tricks to develop a style guide

View all the student showcases here: https://depictdatastudio.com/tag/student-showcases/ 

Limited Seats & Limited Enrollment Timeline 

Because of the hybrid structure of this course—the 24 live sessions each year and the large number of 1:1 consultations—the course is limited to the first 100 students. Courses always sell out. 

Enrollment closes on October 1, 2019—or, once the course reaches its capacity of 100 students, whichever comes first. 


Here’s the link you need: https://depictdatastudio.teachable.com/p/annual-membership/ 

See you in the training program! 


More about Ann K. Emery
Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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