Visual Acuity: Graphics Enhance Data Insights

September 14, 2020 by Susan Paige

Once limited to simple comparisons of data sets and analysis of trends, graphics now provide dynamic insights into complex relationships that visualize data in ways not imagined even a few years ago.

New technologies are expanding the boundaries of data visualization. By unifying data to create a knowledge graph platform, an organization’s decisions are better informed.

Economically Presented

In a graphic data presentation, the goal is to convey information in a manner that is easy to understand by a disparate audience with minimal explanatory text. The intent may be to emphasize an argument or simply direct attention but the data is presented as economically as practical.

Exploratory graphics are generally intended for personal use or by a team with a shared understanding of an issue. While digging into an issue or trend or modeling a complex structure, a series of exploratory graphics often provide useful insights.

Finding New Information

Advancements in technology allow for quick reordering of data compared to older graphic processes involving resets, manual input and print-outs. By taking advantage of display variables in graphic types, sizes, colors and scales, graphics can provide new information or direct attention to unidentified relationships.

Interpretive Skills Needed

With the expanded capability of advanced data visualization platforms comes a need for new skills. Modeling data is more than just picking a graph type and adding labels. Interpretive skills and an understanding of what types of information are better conveyed by which type of graph can greatly improve the value of the result.

As data visualization becomes increasingly valued across a variety of organizations as distinct as financial services, life sciences, manufacturing and government, its uses have expanded to include data scrubbing, exploring how it is structured and detecting outliers. Trends and unrecognized clusters can be identified and patterns localized when data is visualized.

Revealing the Overlooked

Graphics are useful in uncovering features that statistical analysis may overlook. It may be a missing value, an unusual or damaging boundary, improper rounding or data distribution causing a variance.

While models are helpful in confirming ideas that may originate from a visualization, graphics are helpful in checking the model results and sharing the results with others.

More Inclusive Picture

When data is visualized, it is easier to remember and quicker to comprehend. This is especially true when viewed by those with a common knowledge base or as part of a narrative. When presented with complementary text, graphics provide a more inclusive picture.

Examine the Argument

Visualization of the data behind an argument or proposal can sometimes be oversimplified or enhanced for visual appeal. Many authors incorrectly assume readers will not examine the graphic in any depth.

A well developed, colorful graph can provide visual balance to a photo or other illustration. A visually balanced page is both inviting and memorable to even a casual viewer.

In just the past few years, data visualizations, both as presented and by reader acceptance, have greatly enhanced the ability to comprehend large, complex data sets. With increased educational opportunities, the wider application of data graphics by knowledgeable authors can improve understanding of our world and how it responds to changes.

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