All Data Want To be Seen
All data start from humble beginnings. But once discovered and transformed, that same seemingly inauspicious data can become an important driving force. Data can toil in obscurity only for so long. At some point, all data want to be seen.
Of course, generating spreadsheets and reports – numbers occupying rows and columns – is a natural means for transforming data from a raw state to a format that can be seen and understood.
Further transforming those numbers into shapes and colors, though, can make the information even easier to understand and more immediate. That’s what a data visualization, a chart or a graph, e.g., can do. Even the simplest pie chart or bar chart can convey a lot of information that not only appeals to the intellect (in the way a spreadsheet does) but also to the senses (in a way a spreadsheet doesn’t).
This is of course important in the context of a dashboard, for example, where the goal is to depict information that can quickly be grokked and with the right amount drama.
Data visualizations are to spreadsheets what music videos are to sheet music.
Beyond Pie Charts
Just as there are new emerging technologies for collecting, storing and processing data, e.g. the Hadoop ecosystem, there are new exciting technologies for creating visualizations that are up to the task of getting that data in front of more and more eyeballs. It’s all part of the current data zeitgeist.
Creating data visualizations is a multidisciplinary endeavor – part graphic design, part psychology and part computer science. With the growing ubiquity of libraries like d3 truly engaging and interactive data visualizations will become more prevalent – which is good for the data that right now is secretly hoping to be rescued from obscurity.
In future posts I’ll take a closer look at the capabilities of d3 and how we use them in the data visualizations we create.