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Data Visualization Helps Us to See Otherwise Meaningless Data

April 24, 2011

In his talk for Ted, data journalist David McCandless shows us through infographics how being able to “see data” visually is a powerful step toward understanding. He talks about charts and graphs in a way that make them come to life for those otherwise hobbled by data blindness – or numerical disfunction. The ability to see data relative to those things we can comprehend makes data visualization a powerful tool toward change and helps us to clarify meaning. Here’s a very worthwhile 18 minutes of McCandless on making data beautiful.

I have to laugh at many so-called infographics, which simply place stylized text on visually interesting graphic backgrounds and include photos or other images, without including any data visualization at all. McCandles avoids that faux pas by crunching numbers and making meaningful visual comparisons with the resulting numbers. He is making infographics visually powerful and useful to understanding complex concepts in new ways. Visual understanding is facilitated more often than not, by showing size or area comparisons to represent percentages or raw numbers.


McCandless also likes the use of color as a secondary visual key. Below is an infographic showing companies suing each other over telecom patents and processes – with black representing increases in revenue and red indicating declines in revenue – while area represents current revenue.

Here are a few more infographics of interest to small business:

Mike Valentine

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