So you may be asking yourself, what does data charts and bar graphics can have of interesting ?
Actually a lot, some people like me grow up making boring statistical charts at school for useless projects, that’s why they may be not so popular as they could be, what I have discovered and really impress me is that data visualizations are becoming a very powerful vehicle for delivering messages besides of the aesthetics improvements.
As designers we grow up hearing stuff like “one must transmit our messages and thoughts trough design” however I don´t see how when I´m designing a fork I can transmit mi concern for the fact that my country (Mexico) has the more expensive Internet service and the lowest quality available , what I see more adequate for this kind of messages would be to make an interactive tool that shows the different fees and Internet quality of different countries,translating all the numbers and data into a coherent and graphical display could show the overwhelming comparison between what we are paying and the kind of service we receive , then I could show it to my friends , tweet it or digg it for people to see it , And luckily the data visualization tool will get distributed enough to start a social movement and why not start making governmental pressure to regulate the price and quality of Internet , that would be awesome right??
Why now data visualizations are more powerful than ever?? As shown in the video above we can guess some of the reasons , technology, social media (blogs,twitter,facebook etc..) , the creation of softwares like flash or processing to create very cool and compelling visualizations however I agree the most important thing is data , the data which people has access today its thousands of times more useful than the one available in the past , many governments are making APIS to open their data to people, The New York Times for example has opened their archives to public domain , all this information and numbers can now be organized and displayed on interactive tools to talk about an specific subject and make it relevant and understandable to people.
Some examples could be the cost of getting sick which is a tool to gain a deeper understanding of health care costs, they have combined the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey with 500K records from GE’s proprietary database. By combining MEPS with GE’s data, you can see a more complete picture of the costs associated with chronic conditions.
Another cool visualization could be The Crisis of Credit Visualized that shows how credit practices of last years end up collapsing the economy of US and the rest of the world, perhaps if someone had show us this info before things could be much better.
As you can see in all the examples above data visualisation is no longer only about simple graphs and charts , now there are lots of mediums like videos or interactive tools to transmit the data and make it attractive to audiences and really make a difference.
So now you know the next time you meet up with a person that makes data visualizations and think is lame , think it twice , he is perhaps one of the most powerful communicators these days.
Some places to look up for interesting projects of data visualization.
To keep updated with data visualization projects you can subsciribe to my RSS Feed