What Is Data Visualization?

"Data visualization is the graphical display of abstract information for two purposes: sense-making (also called data analysis) and communication. Important stories live in our data and data visualization is a powerful means to discover and understand these stories, and then to present them to others." (The Interaction Design Foundation).

In short, data visualization can portray complex concepts more easily than text and numbers alone. It can help us process information and see connections that we would otherwise ignore. In addition to this, data visualization has been shown to improve learning, remembrance and last but not least, facilitate decision-making.

The concept of using pictures to understand data is nothing new. In fact, it has been around since the 17th century. (sas) It's the recent technological development, however, that developed and enhanced the idea - from simple line maps and bar charts to advanced and captivating infographics and treemaps.

Why Use Data Visualization?

Visual content grabs the audiences' attention and retention, and can be processed much faster than text. 60,000 times faster to be specific. Visual content can even influence human emotions. (The Next Web). Other reasons to use data visualization include:

According to sas, Data Visualization can also:

  1. Identify areas that need attention or improvement.
  2. Clarify which factors influence customer behavior.
  3. Help you understand which products to place where.
  4. Predict sales volumes

In this Ted Talk, David McCandless describes how data visualization not only can help us understand complex data sets, but also help us reflect and see situations from new perspectives.

In what way are brands, marketers, retailers and advertisers using data visualization to build stronger customer relationships?

The concept of data visualization can be applied to vast number of situations and industries. One business that heavily depend on visual representation of data, is marketing. In order to understand their targets, marketers go thorough tremendous amounts of consumer data, ranging from psychographic to demographic traits, to hard numbers and analysis. However, this immense and stale data means nothing without insights, context and proper presentation. Data visualizations allows marketers to see the connections that matter. It helps them transform big data into convincing and memorable stories. Stories that sell concepts and strategies to clients and consumers.

Let's say a marketing agency is hired to create a campaign and media plan that resonates with Gen Z. In order to understand their target, they do extensive research. After crunching numbers and analyzing surveys, they conclude that social media is the best way to reach Gen Z and create a media plan emphasizing this. When pitching the media plan to the client, they create an infographic - a visual representation of research that supports their media plan. An effective way to convince the clients they’re making the right choice, without boring them.

This in mind, effective visuals can be impactful for other purposes than sales. Below is an example of how phramasist Niraj Naik used data visualization to convince people to stop drinking coke.

The Future of Data Visualization

To sum up, there is no doubt that data visualization has changed the way we present and understand data. Though it is difficult to predict exactly how data visualization will change in the future, experts agree that it will become more prominent, enhance real time data, and become more interactive - allowing consumers to play around and adapt the data to their situation and needs.

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Hanna Aasen

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