The Diverse Landscape of Data Visualization

The digital world has drastically changed the way information is organized, disseminated, and viewed. Successful organization of content equates to quick interpretation, and supports the right-now attitude of modern society. We long since surpassed data overload—if you had printed all of the content on the internet in 2009 it would take you 57,000 years to read it (via The sheer amount of data has become overwhelming, but thanks to data visualization and information graphics, it will never become incomprehensible.

Although information graphics have been utilized for centuries to break down complex data into easily understood visual systems, Edward Tufte's strict rules for creating them are increasingly disregarded. Chartjunk can litter the data, skew content and confuse the audience (just like decorating a design can hinder its overall success), but in a world of shrinking attention spans strong visuals have become increasingly necessary to help capture attention. If you are a novice information designer be sure to consider the following as you develop your project:

The three parts of all infographics are the visual, the content, and the knowledge. The visual consists of colors and graphics. There are two different types of graphics—theme and reference. Theme graphics are included in all infographics and represent the underlying visual representation of the data. Reference graphics are generally icons that can be used to point to certain data, although they are not always found in infographics. Statistics and facts usually serve as the content for infographics, and can be obtained from any number of sources, including census data and news reports. One of the most important aspects of infographics is that they contain some sort of insight into the data that they are presenting—this is the knowledge (via Wikipedia).

The examples below show a broad range of approaches to data visualization. Consider how each utilizes visuals in various ways to support the content. How does each solution reveal content that may have been hidden otherwise?


David McCandless