The art of data visualisation

This morning I sat down and watched this video about the art of visualisation. http://www.openculture.com/2013/05/the_art_of_data_visualization_.html It is introduced and rounded up by Edward Tufte. There are some excellent tips on how good design can help to tell complex stories. My apologies if this all looks a bit like teaching someone how to suck eggs. Those points made that rang a bell with me:

  • It isn’t a new art form. It probably started with mapping, centuries ago.

  • It is at least in part about pattern recognition as this is easier in the visual sense because our brains quickly recognise patterns. (I know some people who can easily do this in a sheet of numbers too, but that is another story. My Dad died recently and he was one of these people.)

  • It is important to recognise that it is also about emotions and that is where aesthetics play a big part.

  • Visual storytelling aids in comprehension.

  • Like any form of design, you must start by understanding deeply.

  • I liked the guy who said that clever and aesthetic design can “invite people in”.

  • There are important links between art and culture. Currently our former artist-in-residence (Chris Gaul) and I are busy agreeing with each other that there is really no difference between some great design and great art.

  • Good visualisation is about revelation; revealing things not seen or not easily seen.

  • Remember your audience, they are smarter than you think, so treat them with respect.

  • Know your content.

  • Finally I think Tufte himself makes the point that sometimes ambiguity is a good thing. It can also be about “unknowing”.

Cultural institutions should do more of this. It is far more effective than dull annual reports.

And below you can see one of my favourite examples of data visualisation by Irene Wellington:

Bradman's comet trailing the sky of the Australian Innings

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