Data visualization is the presentation of quantitative information in graphical form. In other words, data visualizations turn large, small datasets into visuals that are easier for the human brain to understand and process.
Data visualizations are surprisingly common in your daily life, but they often appear in the form of well-known charts and graphs. The combination of multiple visualizations and pieces of information is often given the term infographics.
Data visualizations can be used to uncover unknown facts and trends. You've probably seen visualizations in the form of line charts to represent changes over time. Bar charts and histograms are useful for observing relationships and making comparisons. Pie charts are a great way to show parts of a whole. And maps are the best way to visually share geographic data.
A good data visualization
Great data visualizations are created when communication, data science, and design come together. Data visualizations done right deliver key insights into complex data sets in a meaningful and intuitive way. American statistician and Yale professor Edward Tufte believes that great data visualizations consist of “complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency.”
In order to build a good data visualization, you need to start with data that is clear, trusted, and complete. Once your data is ready to visualize, you need to choose the right chart. It can be tricky, but there are plenty of resources available to help you choose the right chart type for your data.
Once you have decided which type of chart is most appropriate, you need to design and customize your visualization. Remember, simplicity is key. Do not add elements that confuse the data. Now that your visualization is complete, it's time to publish and share with your colleagues, clients or readers.
Why is data visualization that important?
Now more than ever, organizations are using data visualization and data analytics tools to ask better questions and make better decisions. Emerging computing technologies and new, intuitive software make it easier to understand the business and enable better data-driven business decisions.
The focus on performance metrics, data dashboards, and key performance indicators (KPIs) shows the importance of measuring and tracking business data. Common quantitative information measured by companies includes units or products sold, revenue by quarter, department expenses, employee statistics, and company market share.
Data visualizations and information graphics (infographics) have become an essential tool for today's mainstream media.
Data journalism is booming, and journalists routinely rely on quality visualization tools to support their stories about the world around us. Many highly respected institutions have fully embraced data-driven reporting, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Scientific American, CNN, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, and The Economist.
Marketers also greatly benefit from the combination of quality data and emotional storytelling. The best marketers make data-driven decisions every day, but passing it on to their customers requires a different approach. An approach that combines intelligence and emotion. Data visualizations help marketers share their message using statistics and sentiment.