We are visual creatures, built for visual analysis. Off all our sensory organs, it is through the eyes that the largest amount of data enters the brain. Our visual system is extremely well-developed; the optic nerve sends data to the brain at blinding speeds, and the brain then processes that data with matching rapidity. It recognizes shapes and colors, detects edges, and matches patterns. This is why data visualization is so much more interesting to us than mere numbers.
‘The human mind is wired for pictures’
Transform the Numbers
Patterns, especially, represent the most important messages in data, as the brain analyses trends, outliers and gaps. A spreadsheet of numbers doesn’t do much to quickly tell your brain what those numbers mean, or differentiate a particular set of numbers with another. But once you graph those numbers, your eyes will quickly see trends like mean, correlation, variance and regression. Different data sets will look different, and so tell your brain a lot more about what the numbers actually signify.
Make Data Understandable
Visualization therefore formats data in a way that allows it to be recognized and understood much more easily and quickly. They convey information and knowledge much more effectively. And what’s more, it allows a much huge amount of data to be processed by the minds of even casually interested viewers, quickly and efficiently. Of course, deeper insights will only be unlocked upon deeper study and research, but this allows for reader engagement. Plus, the accessibility of the insights available through visualization allows for readers to make smart decisions quickly.
Trends in Data Visualization
Let’s have a look at some of the hottest trends in data visualization this year.
Social First Data Visualizations
This refers to the act of creating visualizations after keeping in mind its presentation and relevancy on social media. These visualizations, like GIFs and animations, are instantly shareable on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and could turn potentially viral.
Strong Narratives and Storytelling Skills
Good visualization tells a story. If you want people to get interested in a particular visualization, it has to engage them. The data should be transformed into information that keeps its intended audience in mind, and thus resonates with them.
Thanks to terms like ‘fake news’ dominating the airways, the focus on truthful and reliable data has increased immensely. Inaccurate data visualizations will kill your objective in this new environment, and so it’s important that you be transparent about and accountable for your data sources, as well as more authentic in communication.
Influential Persons in DataViz
Here are a few people you should keep an eye out for (and follow on social media!) for their insights on visualization.
- David McCandless: Make sure to listen to his TED talk on data visualization.
- Evan Sinar: Chief Scientist at DDI and Director of the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research, Evan’s posts on social media are educational, insightful and entertaining.
- Naomi Robbins, Author of “Creating More Effective Graphs”, she is a must-follow on Twitter.
All in all data visualization helps us to understand a bunch of numbers in an easy and slightly way. It makes data exploration more entertaining while it provides useful information in a very effective way.