The need for data literacy (and aesthetics, too)
Everybody says that a picture is worth a thousand words. But what if it was worth a billion words?
Data visualization has been a topic of discussion for a long time now, but it is only recently that the data visualization trend has started transforming the way we grasp the increasing amount of numbers, keywords, stats, indicators, etc. that come our way. This happens not only because as humans we learn more visually than through any other way of assimilating information, but also because we are continually finding better ways to represent data. We manage to illustrate data in a manner that our visual right side of the brain can process and forward to the analytical left side of the brain.
As the data visualization trend is growing, however, the antagonism between data and aesthetics is growing too. Visual does not always imply aesthetics. In this context, ‘infographics’ is the current buzzword in representing data in a clean, understandable and beautiful way.
The infographics explosion on the web has been covering such a wide area of topics - from entertainment to social issues to politics or economics - that they are becoming a standard of data visualization bound to catch the audience’s attention.
This is indeed a useful argument in the debate about whether or not information and aesthetics are mutually exlusive terms in the daily work of business intelligence users.
Even though infographics are proving that sales numbers or profit benchmarks can be represented in a visually attractive and comprehensive way, business users still have to bust this myth everyday when they circulate reports and analysis. Even though infographics prove this point, business users do not want to spend valuable time transforming their reports into appealing representations. So, are we back to the antagonism, or in a place to find a new solution?
This is where business intelligence dashboards come in. Having the back-end engine tailored for business users knowledgeable about analytics, and the intuitive UI that lets users customize graphics in multiple ways, dashboards are becoming the day-by-day infographics of business users all over the world. They do not require designer hours. Most importantly, their real-time interactivity features transform dashboards into automated infographics and, thus, ongoing decision tools.
Everyone is now a practitioner of data and of charts, and we can say that data literacy is becoming as popular as the coding movement. In order for this growing array of basic data skills to be valuable at a large scale, data visualization literacy has to become a standard, too.
That very same picture will be worth two billion words tomorrow - and the time our brain uses to process that data stays the same, or even reduces.
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