Book Image

Data Visualization: a successful design process

Book Image

Data Visualization: a successful design process

Overview of this book

Do you want to create more attractive charts? Or do you have huge data sets and need to unearth the key insights in a visual manner? Data visualization is the representation and presentation of data, using proven design techniques to bring alive the patterns, stories and key insights locked away."Data Visualization: a Successful Design Process" explores the unique fusion of art and science that is data visualization; a discipline for which instinct alone is insufficient for you to succeed in enabling audiences to discover key trends, insights and discoveries from your data. This book will equip you with the key techniques required to overcome contemporary data visualization challenges. You'll discover a proven design methodology that helps you develop invaluable knowledge and practical capabilities.You'll never again settle for a default Excel chart or resort to "fancy-looking" graphs. You will be able to work from the starting point of acquiring, preparing and familiarizing with your data, right through to concept design. Choose your "killer" visual representation to engage and inform your audience."Data Visualization: a Successful Design Process" will inspire you to relish any visualization project with greater confidence and bullish know-how; turning challenges into exciting design opportunities.
Table of Contents (13 chapters)
Data Visualization: a successful design process
About the Author
About the Reviewers

Exploiting the digital age

The following is a quotation from Hal Varian, Google's chief economist (

The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that's going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.

Data visualization is not new; the visual communication of data has been around in various forms for hundreds and arguably thousands of years. Popular methods that still dominate the boardrooms of corporations across the land—the line, bar, and pie charts—originate from the eighteenth century.

What is new is the contemporary appetite for and interest in a subject that has emerged from the fringes and into mainstream consciousness over the past decade.

Catalyzed by powerful new technological capabilities as well as a cultural shift towards greater transparency and accessibility of data, the field has experienced a rapid growth in enthusiastic participation.

Where once the practice of this discipline would have been the preserve of specialist statisticians, engineers, and academics, the globalized field that exists today is a very active, informed, inclusive, and innovative community of practitioners pushing the craft forward in fascinating directions. The following image shows a screenshot of the OECD 'Better Life Index', comparing well-being across different countries. This is just one recent example of an extremely successful visual tool emerging from this field.

Image from "OECD Better Life Index" (, created by Moritz Stefaner (htpp:// in collaboration with Raureif GmbH (

Data visualization is the multi-talented, boundary-spanning trendy kid that has seen many esteemed people over the past few years, such as Hal Varian, forecasting this as one of the next big things.

Anyone considering data visualization as a passing fad or just another vacuous buzzword is short-sighted; the need to make sense of and communicate data to others will surely only increase in relevance. However, as it evolves from the next big thing to the current big thing, the field is at an important stage of its diffusion and maturity. Expectancy has been heightened and it does have a certain amount to prove; something concrete to deliver beyond just experimentation and constant innovation.

It is an especially important discipline with a strong role to play in this modern age. To help frame this, let's first look at the data side of things.

Take a minute to imagine your data footprint over the past 24 hours; that is, the activities you have been involved in or the actions you have taken that will have resulted in data being created and captured.

You've probably included things such as buying something in a shop, switching on a light, putting some fuel in your car, or watching a TV program: the list can go on and on.

Almost everything we do involves a digital consequence; our lives are constantly being recorded and quantified. That sounds a bit scary and probably a little too close for comfort to Orwell's dystopian vision. Yet, for those of us with an analytical curiosity, the amount of data being recorded creates exciting new opportunities to make and share discoveries about the world we live in.

Thanks to incredible advancements and pervasive access to powerful technologies we are capturing, creating, and mobilizing unbelievable amounts of data at an unbelievable rate. Indeed, such is the exponential growth in digital information, in the last two years alone, humanity has created more data than had ever previously been amassed (

Data is now rightly seen as an invaluable asset, something that can genuinely help change the world for the better or potentially create a competitive goldmine, depending on your perspective. "Data is the new oil", first voiced in 2006 and attributed to Clive Humby of Dunnhumby, is a term gaining traction today. Corporations, government bodies, and scientists, to name but a few, are realizing the challenges and, moreover, opportunities that exist with effective utilization of the extraordinary volumes, large varieties, and great velocity of data they govern.

However, to unlock the potential contained within these deep wells of ones and zeros requires the application of techniques to explore and convey the key insights.

Flipping to the opposite side of the data experience, we also identify ourselves as consumers of data. As you would expect, given the volume of captured data, never before in our history have we been faced with the prospect of having to process and digest so much.

Through newspapers, magazines, advertising, the Web, text messaging, social media, and e-mail, our eyes and brains are being relentlessly bombarded by information. In a typical day, it is said we can expect to consume about 100,000 words (, which is an astonishing quantity of signals for us to have to make sense of.

Unquestionably, a majority of this visual onslaught flies past us without consequence. We see much of it as noise and we zone out as a way of coping with the overload and saturation of things to think and care about.

What this shows is the necessity to be more effective and efficient in how data is communicated. It needs to be portrayed in ways that help to get our messages across in both an engaging and informative way.

If data is the oil, then data visualization is the engine that facilitates its true value and that is why it is such a relevant discipline for exploiting our digital age.