How To Simplify Spreadsheets Using the Continuation Art Principle

Nov 10, 2016 / Programming & Design / spreadsheets

Last month I mentioned continuation, which refers to our mind’s tendency to continue or repeat something if there is a hint of direction.

You see one line instead of two. You see a circle instead of two arcs.

You can use this tendency to your advantage. You can choose to start something, but not finish it, so that there is less ink laid down on the page (remember the data-ink ratio).

Continuation is the reason why indentation works.

The reason why removing the dollar sign works. We understand that all the numbers in these columns are in dollars.

Continuation can be used to complete an enclosure without enclosing it fully (as shown in the subheading lines above). This improves the data-ink ratio.

The next time you are working on a spreadsheet, think about what elements you’re repeating throughout (like dollar signs, units of measure, lines). Can you use continuation to improve the data-ink ratio?

What this really means is that you can reduce the ink on the page (or pixels on the screen). What will be left are the important things—the actual data that carries your message. Your spreadsheet will be cleaner, more direct, and more beautiful.

About the Author

Jonah Calinawan

Hello! I’m Jonah Calinawan, an accountant turned artist.

I create art that makes you think and write about the creative mindset to help and inspire you.

My favorite free finance tool is Personal Capital. Subscribe and receive a PDF where I talk about how I use this tool to financially stay on track.

When not shooting photos, I teach myself piano and recommend Josh Wright’s Propractice video tutorials (affiliate link).

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