With a world full of information and data competing for our attention, it can be confusing and overwhelming to understand everything that’s going on around us.
Cue data visualizations — simple, clear, and elegant visual representations of large sets of data. While data visualizations might be presented in a variety of ways, the goal is to help visualize vast amounts of information so that viewers can digest the data more clearly and quickly. Let’s dive deeper and see a couple examples in action…
Data visualizations help to simplify large sets of data.
Large amounts of information are collected, sorted, condensed, and presented in a data visualization. They help to tell a story and give viewers a fuller picture of what the information is telling us.
In this graphic in Lemonly’s 2012 annual report, the viewer can immediately see which months had the most page views — May and February.
Data visualizations help viewers understand data on a more intuitive level.
It is often much easier to understand a graph or chart rather than pages on a spreadsheet.
It is often much easier to understand a graph or chart rather than pages on a spreadsheet. Data visualizations help us to focus on the information that is relevant and important, representing the data so that we immediately understand what’s going on.
In this graphic for we completed for MLS, the viewer sees two layers of data. The use of color emphasizes what to focus on — which countries MLS players are from, and the number of players from each country.
Data visualizations allow viewers to see relationships between sets of data.
Viewers can make connections and identify patterns in the data, which they otherwise would not have been able to.
In this graphic we created for Vision Critical, the size of the pie graphs indicate the number of people, while the color indicates the different types of sharers. Viewers can notice several different relationships in the data — there are much more sharers in the USA compared to Canada and the UK, but the breakdown of types of sharers in the USA is quite similar to Canada.
Data visualizations can help to change our perspective or behavior.
Data that is understood more clearly when it’s visualized can help us to make more informed decisions even in our day-to-day life.
In the screenshot above, you can see my electricity consumption compared with similar homes nearby. Since there’s context to the data, I’m realizing that I’m using much more compared to others in my neighborhood — yikes! Once I start to make changes to save energy, I can monitor the data to see if I’m making progress to reduce my consumption.
Want to learn more?
Here are a couple more resources if you’re looking to learn more about data visualization.
- David McCandless: The Beauty of Data Visualization TED talk
- The work of Nicholas Felton Website
- Data Flow: Visualising Information in Graphic Design Book