What is data visualization? Presenting data for decision-making

What is data visualization? Presenting data for decision-making

Data visualization definition

Data visualization is the presentation of data in a graphical format. It reduces the “noise” of data by presenting it visually, making it easier for decision makers to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data.

Maps and charts were among the earliest forms of data visualization. One of the most well-known early examples of data visualization was a flow map created by French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard in 1869 to help understand what Napoleon’s troops suffered in the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. The map used two dimensions to depict the number of troops, distance, temperature, latitude and longitude, direction of travel, and location relative to specific dates.

Today, data visualization encompasses all manners of presenting data visually, from dashboards to reports, statistical graphs, heat maps, plots, infographics, and more.

The business value of data visualization

Data visualization helps people analyze data quickly and efficiently. By providing easy-to-understand visual representations of data, it helps employees make more informed decisions based on that data. Presenting data in visual form can make it easier to comprehend, enable people to obtain insights more quickly. Visualizations can also make it easier to communicate those insights. Visual representations of data can also make it easier to see how independent variables relate to one another. This can help you see trends, understand the frequency of events, and track connections between operations and performance, for example.

Types of data visualization

There are myriad ways of visualizing data, but data design agency The Datalabs Agency says there are two basic categories of data visualization:

  • Exploration: Exploration visualizations help you understand what the data is telling you.
  • Explanation: Explanation visualizations tell a story to an audience using data.

It is essential to understand which of those two ends a given visualization is intended to achieve.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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