Visualization spectrum

Posted to Visualization  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

A handful of experts weighed in on visualization as a spectrum rather than an unyielding tool.

The panelists emphasized repeatedly that data visualization exists on a spectrum. On one side are the pieces that are purely aesthetic and emotional, and on the other, the focus is purely on conveying the insights found in the data. Tom Carden, a data visualization engineer at Square, asks himself if the goal is to grab attention for a new idea, or to build a tool that will be used on an ongoing basis: “Tools need to be actionable, auditable, and they have to stand up to scrutiny long-term.” Tools should be able to accommodate new data, he said, and should grow with companies in such a way that people aren’t surprised by a difference between this week and last week.

From the other side of the spectrum are different types of insight that can be emotional, reflective, or just darn funny. This is equally important to analytic insight that you get from tools, and they feed in to each other providing a more realistic view of what data really represents.

Some illustrated notes from the panel:

Favorites

Best Data Visualization Projects of 2016

Here are my favorites for the year.

Life expectancy changes

The data goes back to 1960 and up to the most current estimates for 2009. Each line represents a country.

Watching the growth of Walmart – now with 100% more Sam’s Club

The ever so popular Walmart growth map gets an update, and yes, it still looks like a wildfire. Sam’s Club follows soon after, although not nearly as vigorously.

Shifting Incomes for American Jobs

For various occupations, the difference between the person who makes the most and the one who makes the least can be significant.