Creative Data Visualization

“A good sketch is better than a long speech.” — Napoleon

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 3.03.35 PMAn ongoing surge of digital information makes creative data visualization tools even more relevant for today’s marketing professionals. Data visualization presents the attributes or variables of information units in schematic form. Ideal visualization should communicate clearly and stimulate viewer engagement.

Writing for the HBR Blog Network, John Sviokla says “we will naturally migrate toward superior visualizations to cope with this information ocean.”

In Why your brain needs data visualization, Analise Polsky explains the benefits of processing information through pictures.

According to Friedman (2008):

The main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. It doesn’t mean that data visualization needs to look boring to be functional or extremely sophisticated to look beautiful. To convey ideas effectively, both aesthetic form and functionality need to go hand in hand, providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way. Yet designers often fail to achieve a balance between form and function, creating gorgeous data visualizations which fail to serve their main purpose — to communicate information.

Creative representations of raw data are more appealing and easier to understand than yawn-worthy spreadsheets, and can make you and your data stand out in client meetings and pitches.

In Sviokla’s work with clients, he’s seen three primary benefits of creative data visualization and superior graphic representation:

  1. Great visualizations are efficient — they let people look at vast quantities of data quickly.
  2. Visualizations can help an analyst or a group achieve more insight into the nature of a problem and discover new understanding.
  3. A great visualization can help create a shared view of a situation and align folks on needed actions.

Keep in mind there are times when data visualization doesn’t work. If the visualization does more to confuse the viewer than it does to bring clarity, the visualization has not achieved its goal. It could almost be considered more of an art piece rather than a data visualization piece. That being said, most data visualization pieces should be art–not all art is a data visualization piece.

Once you take the time to be sure your raw data is flawless, here are a few stand-out tools recommended by the folks over at WorldStar Inernet Marketing.

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha isn’t a search engine, it is a knowledge engine. For just about any piece of data, WolframAlpha can plot it. It does this by asking questions and then returning the results in as basic visualisations. If for example you ask it about your Facebook account it returns a host of interesting charts, graphs and other data about your connections and interests. Although this isn’t a general purpose tool, it is a good example of taking a large data sets and representing them in different ways.

 

Chart.js

Chart.js is an open-source charting library perfect for designers and developers. By making use of just a few lines of JavaScript code it allows you to extract a chart inside a canvas element. Chart.js is a good tool to use for basic chart types and the good news is that it only adds 20KB to your page size to do it.

 

Visual.Ly

Visual.ly brings a social networking element to data visualization by connecting people, imagery and data around the world. Designers are able to submit their own projects on data visualization and infographics which can then be shared and used by others looking for a similar solution. Eventually this tool will allow users to create dynamic infographics directly within a browser.Visual.ly has a handful of partner pages similar to a profile page where users can view comments, likes, views, and infographic submissions, however these are targeted towards big-name brands such as National Geographic, eBay, Skype and CNN.