A few people have asked me this question just this past week. I usually point them to this thread in the forums. Any other suggestions?
The visual data twitter list by @webmuesli is quite a good start to see what’s going on currently:
http://twitter.com/webmuesli/visual-data or for those who don’t tweet, check out the newspaperized format: http://paper.li/webmuesli/visual-data
I highly recommend Stephen Few’s 3 day course. You can find it here: http://www.perceptualedge.com/courses.php
I don’t know of anyplace else you can get so much information around data visualization in such a short period of time.
His books are also great (http://www.perceptualedge.com/library.php) but don’t hold a candle to the courses that he teaches himself.
I would not say it’s a matter of schooling, though if I had to choose something it would be statistics, but it could be any quantitative discipline mixed with some facility with computers.
A better take on it is this post : http://dataspora.com/blog/sexy-data-geeks/
Knowledge of some scripting is essential if you are looking at big datasets, but more important is persistence.
The biggest hurdle is getting data into a form that you can work with. “Real” data sources are often flawed and it takes a lot of work to make sure that you are actually even working with the numbers that you think you are.
Become a member.
Learn to visualize your data.
From beginner to advanced.
What you get
It’s always tough to pick my favorite visualization projects. Nevertheless, I gave it a go.
People get married at various ages, but there are definite trends that vary across demographic groups. What do these trends look like?
The data goes back to 1960 and up to the most current estimates for 2009. Each line represents a country.
I call myself a statistician, because, well, I’m a statistics graduate student. However, the most important things I’ve learned are less formal, but have proven extremely useful when working/playing with data.