What is data visualization?

It is a well-known fact that we live in an era of communication, where new technologies changed our lives and the way we interact with new knowledge. We view countless images during the day, as an interpretation of information in order to make consuming the knowledge simpler to our eyes and brains. Data visualisation is a great example of this, as visual interpretation is most needed to communicate complex topics.

From raw data to results: the role of the information designer.

The first step to visualize data, is to first obtain the data from data scientists or the infrastructures from software engineers. Whereas the last step is to present this data in a simple, visualized way, to the end user, whether it be a stakeholder or another user. In between the first and last step, oftentimes the data owner can communicate this knowledge to stakeholders or end users, often times another person is needed in between: the information designer.

This person is an intermediary between both roles, and needs to have a connection with both scientists and end users. While being able to understand the data inputs, the designer must also know how information works and how it will be received by the public.

Sometimes data scientists are able to visually represent the data they are using as there are many tools for data visualisation, some data visualization tools are accessible to everyone. Nevertheless, value is provided by the creativity of a visual designer: not only are they creative, but they are able to spot new patterns of meaning within the provided data. By having a visual designer work with the data, the visualization may change from what both the data scientist and the end user would initially expect. Moreover, a team comprised of different profiles is more likely to lead to success.

Using hard science with creative flexibility

The design process is not only about making things beautiful, nicer, simpler or minimalistic. More happens within a designer’s mind, and on top of that list is “how to better communicate”. In data visualisation, there is always a relationship between simplicity and complexity that influences the designer’s choices until they reach the perfect balance.
To reach this balance it is imperative to be truthful and committed to the data. This is the basis of the work, but a designer’s brain goes through other routes that we must keep in mind to apply our knowledge of the aesthetic world. However, take note, there is no place for design fashions or personal taste; this is still a professional and empirical-driven design.

The design work is based on molding information into a visual result, using hard data with flexible design knowledge, which should lead to a both readable and meaningful result. This must always answer the end user’s needs, while at the same time go beyond – and create a new view and interest, spurring the end user to connect not only in a rational manner, but also in an emotional dimension.

The data visualization field has greatly advanced from geographic maps, or the first data visualization examples. Now, many tools can be used on your laptop, whether it be software or online-based. It is always interesting to have a complete team with different profiles providing input and ideas, as this is the path towards innovation. And always remember: data can be communicated beyond pie charts, bars and line graphics!

About Author

Inés Gómez

Inés is our non-scientific profile – with a background in graphic design and photography, she ensures that all our communications look nice and tidy. She is passionate about art, theatre, infographics and typography. She might judge you by the font you use on your documents! Read more about Inés Gómez

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