Your Next Data Hire Should Be a Designer

Amina Brown
May 16, 2023
min read
Most organizations that focus on the value of data will reach a point where they have an established team of data professionals and are looking to add a new team member to help with the workload. In many cases, the additional job will fall under the umbrella of data analyst or data scientist, and is commonly a duplicate of a role already represented on the team. We’re here to suggest that instead of hiring another analyst, you should hire a designer, specifically a data visualization designer.

Now this might seem out of place. If you’re looking to ease the workload for your existing team, shouldn’t you hire someone who has similar skills? Not necessarily. The reality is that while a data visualization designer is not likely going to help work on your data structuring, query writing, or modeling, they can heavily contribute to the last stage of the data workflow: reporting. Hiring someone to be your reporting expert has multiple benefits.

1. Designing and building graphs and the reports they live within are generally not the top skills of someone in a more technical data role.

In my time as a data scientist, the team I was on spent lots of time working on reporting to properly showcase our important analyses, but most of the time we were just guessing at what should be included and hoped it met the end users needs. There was very little consideration for the design elements that can make a visual much more impactful.

Additionally, the time we spent floundering around with reporting could have been put to use upstream of the reporting, but only if we had someone to hand the reporting work off to. The same is likely to happen across other data teams. Though hiring a designer instead of an analyst means they won’t have someone to help with all their tasks, they will have a lot more time to leverage their strengths working on the technical aspects of the process. 

2. Hiring a data visualization designer is an investment in your reporting.

And while reporting is sometimes a bit of an afterthought when it comes to working with data, it is still the final product that your team delivers. The reality is that data teams work to support all aspects of the business, technical or not, so providing a better report will actually provide more value to the rest of the organization. A designer will focus on making the reports more polished and easier to read.

This serves to provide more credibility to the report, is likely to translate to wider adoption and continued use of the report, and means that, if needed, the report can easily be shared with external parties (customers, stakeholders, etc.). Essentially, your data visualization designer will be positioned to serve as a liaison between the analysts and the end user.

Given that 65% of people are visual learners (NCBI), a designer’s expertise in making visuals that effectively highlight the main insights from the analyst’s work becomes all the more important. That expertise includes knowledge about retinal variables, how to leverage them in the layout of a visual, and how each decision contributes to the user’s understanding. It also means that they’ll be able to make the right decisions about when to just share insights in a table and when to polish them into something more.

Example of retinal variables and their uses in data visualization

When it comes down to it, a data visualization designer will streamline and improve all your reporting. This can mean that you can do away with cumbersome reports that often lead to friction and frustrations between the data teams and the rest of the organization and, in turn, can mean that the value your data team provides will be all the more apparent. It’s a win-win situation.

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