Many companies tell us to reduce the verbosity of their documents; they are placing a higher emphasis on tables, charts, data visualization and info graphics. They want stories to be told through visuals. And it does seem a more memorable way to express and help retain information which is otherwise just a series of numbers – or mumbo-jumbo to most of us.
Parsing data, showing relationships between variables, expressing timelines in a meaningful manner and showing crowd behaviour in dynamic displays (such as the rising popularity of key words in a search or data displayed on maps) is an art. It can be entertaining as well as educative. But above all, it must communicate what is critical to the consumer of the data. Often, designers and content management folks miss the point. Especially because today it has become simple to visualise data using the tools tucked away in PowerPoint or Keynote. Who isn’t a PowerPoint or Excel commando in today’s world? But they all turn out yawn-inducing visualizations of data.
How do you take data visualization to the next level? By ensuring you have the right data source, by making sure your research is immaculate and the conclusions you draw are powerful. Then, it is a question of how you ‘see’ the data or what the right way to ‘see’ the data is. There are various techniques that fit each data set and our favourite place to validate our own thinking is the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. It’s packed with hyperbolic trees, cause and effect chains, learning maps, divergent thinking, convergent thinking and the simpler pert chart.
Once you have the fundamental way of interpreting data right, it’s time to give it class, flair and attitude. Be careful how much you dress up your data – always ensuring it is in keeping with the temperament of the audience and the tenor of the occasion it is meant for. To help you get started on the possibilities of data visualization, go here and take a look at how imagination and creativity, thinking and application can turn data into a work of art.
At pepper square, we have always been focused on graphical thinking. If something can be expressed as a graph, chart or image, we are driven to show it that way. Perhaps it has to do with how the web has begun to shape universal thinking: everything must be easy to consume, easy to understand and easy to remember. So, how is your data looking today?