What is visualization?

Data visualization are various methods of transforming, analyzing and presenting data in graphical form.

Methods of presenting data can vary in complexity – from the all-too-familiar bar charts and Excel tables, to more complicated pivot tables and charts, ending with graphically rich infographics and dashboards.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) – are used to measure the performance of a specific area of an organization’s operations. KPIs are quantitative characteristics, represented by specific numerical values. The use of KPIs allows you to understand how the organization is performing – monitoring different areas allows you to identify problems and track progress of various goals and objectives.

When creating a good visualization, there are a few rules to keep in mind. The visualization should:

  • be readable – the task of visualization is to make the data easier to perceive, even for a person who has not been exposed to it before.
  • streamline work – reduce the time it takes to understand data.
  • reflect reality – you need to carefully select graphic elements (e.g., their color) and properly display data (e.g., appropriate scale), so that they reflect the real state.

The use of visualization tools doesn’t have to require the skills of a computer graphic designer; it all depends on the complexity of the work needed to prepare the visualization.

Since visualization is a process of graphical transformation of data, it is very much linked to the fields of Big Data and Data Science. For more information, see the Competency Verifier section dedicated to them.

To be able to visualize the data, you may need to learn the basics of statistical analysis. This will allow you to pre-process the data on your own, and to spot any errors in analyses carried out by/for other organizations. Sources of information explaining the basics in this area can be found on the “Additional Resources” screen.

Data visualization is used in a wide variety of fields – business, science, sports. It can be, for example, a graph showing sales data in a report, a map showing ancient trade routes included in a scientific article, or a graphic showing the distribution of shots on goal during a match.

Clicking on the illustration will open the infographic in a new window.

Infografika pokazujaca schematyczne rysunki bramek piłkarskich i naniesione na nie miejsca, w które celowały strzały rzutów karnych. Każdy mecz to osobna bramka. Dodatkowo wykresy podsumowujące.

Penalty kicks during the World Cup
Source: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/athan.mavrantonis/viz/WorldCupPenaltyShoot-outs/WorldCupPenaltyShoot-outs

Infographics can also take an interactive form, such as the animated infographic on data lakes available on Oracle website.

How to build effective data lakes – interactive infographic
Source: https://www.oracle.com/webfolder/s/assets/infographics/build-data-lakes/index.html

Another interactive example is the infographic comparing the difficulty level of sports by Claire Kim, available on the Tableau tool’s website.

Toughest sport by skillset – interactive infographic
Source: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/siyu.bao/viz/ToughestSportbySkillset/ToughestSportbySkill

Although visualization, or infographics, are terms used today, the graphical representation of data has a much longer history. A very interesting example of this is the work of Charles Joseph Minard, a 19th century French engineer, whose works even today are very good examples of data visualization. The author’s flagship work is a map depicting Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. The bright line shows the size of Napoleon’s army during the march on Moscow (1 mm – 10,000 soldiers), while the black line is a representation of the size of the army returning from Moscow. This shows, in a very vivid way, how great losses were suffered by Napoleon’s army – which makes it a very effective example of an infographic.

Infografika pokazuje na obszarze mampy pomiędzy Kownem a Moskwą liczebność wojsk w poszczególnym miejscach.

Map of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia – Charles Joseph Minard, 1869
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Joseph_Minard#/media/File:Minard.png

Ekran komputera z wieloma wykresami

An example of a manager’s dashboard
Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/JKUTrJ4vK00