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SPOTLIGHT

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

At first glance, Swedish statistics expert Hans Rosling might seem like an unlikely video star, and yet his lecture, “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutes, The Joy of Stats” has over 3,000,000 hits on YouTube. In the lecture, Rosling use statistics to demonstrate that the world has largely become healthier and richer over the last two centuries. How did such a dry-sounding topic find a wide audience? In this case, the appeal seems to be largely based on the animated graphics the speaker uses to build tension and surprise into his presentation. “Having the data is not enough,” Rosling states, “I have to show it in ways people both enjoy and understand.”

As job search season approaches for high school and college students, remembering to appeal to the eye is good resume-building advice. You may not have mastery of either statistical information or animation skills, but compelling visuals are a good way to focus attention on your message, whether we’re talking specifically about a resume, or more generally about a visual aid for an in-class presentation or using charts and tables in a research paper.

This approach can be particularly effective when trying to stand out from a crowded field of job applicants. Consider the case of Chris Spurlock, a University of Missouri journalism major, whose graphics-heavy resume recently went viral. According to JSchoolBuzz.com, a news site dedicated to the University’s School of Journalism, a blog post featuring the resume led to thousands of hits and several e-mails from potential employers. The resume can be viewed here (http://cjspurlock.squarespace.com/resume-cv/).

One tip to bear in mind: the visual presentation should complement the information rather than compete with it. Different visual approaches lend themselves to different types of content. For example, line graphs show change over time, while bar graphs compare categories, and circle graphs show the relation of a part to the whole.

Developing at least rudimentary visual design skills may help you become a more visual thinker, and may earn you careful consideration in your job search!