What is Data Visualisation? Why we do it?

Data visualisation is the representation of information or data in a visual or graphical form. This tends to be in the form of a chart or graph, but data can also be represented in maps and infographics.

The reason we do this is that the human brain finds it far easier to interpret a chart or map, than a block of text or numbers. In fact, 3M did some research and found that humans interpret visuals 60,000 times faster than text or data. This makes sense if we look back in history, we used visuals, such as cave painting and hieroglyphics long before today’s languages came along. Today the most powerful mediums are still visual, TV, movies and advertisement.

Let’s look at an example snapshot of the Auckland Housing market in 2016 & 2017.

bar chart chart data viz

If we were to look at the table, we could eventually see the trend, but it is going to take much longer than displaying the information within a chart. This time factor is critical in today’s fast paced business world, where people are bombarded with information and are time poor.

Visually representing your information makes it far more accessible, enabling people to see the trends and patterns that could be missed, even for those of us that are not as data literate.

When should you be using data visualisations?

A short answer is always, as they are much more likely to get your audience engaged. However, here are some common scenarios to use visualisation techniques:

1.       Communicating key insights, nothing makes a point more than visualising it.

2.       When you are communicating to a wide audience, visuals are a great way to bridge the gap for those that may not be as data literate.

3.       Communicating complicated data, as data visualisation makes you focus on what is important.

4.       Data discovery. Even when analysing data, visualising it will enable you to see the trends quickly.

What to watch out for?

Data visualisation IS NOT data storytelling. It is a component of it. Data Storytelling combines, great analysis, visuals and narrative to bring the story to life. You can read more about this and what is involved in our next blog.

About this series

In our DI Story blog series we will take you through how you can maximise the impact of dash boarding and insights within your organisation to ensure they lead to action.  

Up next in this series is ‘Data storytelling and why it is important’.



3M research

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