Adventures in Visualand: Data visualization today (Episode 3)

In order to achieve the previously mentioned three essential attributes, one may rely on a set of three corresponding techniques that can be used in data visualizations to add the desired impact:

Simplifying is used when large datasets surpass the cognitive capacity to grasp multiple inter-connected scenarios at a single glance. By reducing the data to scale and fitting it into a suitable visualization, the information revealed is much more impactful at a first encounter level. Take for example the Miniature Earth project which reduced the globe’s population to 100 people and presented stunning facts in a visual manner - facts that could not have generated the same rational to emotional transfer if presented on the scale of billions.

Intensifying has been much used from political to social media to weather analysis dashboards. Two recent relevant examples are The Hate Map project cross-analyzing social media with politics and the Wind Map (presented in the figure). These examples illustrate two types of visual models, touching also on visual rankings, agglomerations and movement features.

Figure 3: The Wind Map Project


Complementing data with estimation algorithms is also a useful practice (close to predictive analytics) in terms of generating an immediate impact with the viewers. The following dashboard example encompasses both the aesthetic feature that draws attention and provokes memorability, and the clean and clear design that delivers information, drives understanding and pushes for an emotional response, too due to the narrative types of visuals.

Figure 4: US Gun Deaths


A series of amazing dashboards with this kind of WOW factor generate emotional reactions, such as I did not know this was happening! This is unacceptable! We must do something about it! These dashboards are serving their purpose (a combination of attention, memorability and effect) extremely well. In this context, video dashboards have also taken off in the past year or so, with hundreds of thousands of views that push reactions and decisions. Two short examples of social causes that were overlooked in the past but got a lot of attention due to video data visualizations: Inequality in America and Violence in Mexico.

The good news here is that dashboards can be an extremely efficient call-to-action engine. Moreover, dashboards generated by cloud BI apps - through their live update and interactivity features - are awareness- and community-building tools for issues ranging from social, economic to health or NGO causes.

But the best news here is that the business-use case of visual dashboards can add a decisive element to the mobilization effect. This is the move from We must do something about it! to We know what we have to do! In the business environment, the ideal visual dashboard blends the best of both worlds.

Read all the episodes:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7