Design expertise's true value is its capacity to render complex information understandable and compelling. To make informed decisions, lay audiences depend on the clarity and resonance of data displays. But these, as created by scientists, journalists, and policy researchers, often contradict principles understood by designers to effectively and convincingly communicate data through visual means. Design education and practice insist that visual form conveys the nature of content, or data, on both objectively functional and narrative levels. This article addresses established best practices for creating clear, functional data displays, using form to clarify data's relevance and reveal its intricacy without distortion. It further advocates exploiting form's narrative potential—to qualify and contextualize information, thus enhancing how viewers internalize data, accept its veracity, and invest interest in its meaning. The author posits balancing this formal duality within data visualizations to best engage and resonate with lay audiences, and so catalyze their participation in the world around them.

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