Visualizations: Making statistics suck less, one picture at a time

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photo credit: Vedrana Martincevic Green Space visualization (

Let’s face it: there isn’t a single human being that willfully engages in the reading of 300 page reports filled with numbers. Some do it from necessity, but there’s hardly any joy to be found in analyzing countless statistics that eventually blur into little lines in front of your eyes. Yes, there are lots of useful numbers in there somewhere, but how do we extract them? How do we make this relevant to our target audience, and anyone else that may be interested? How do we dial back the agony of trawling through numbers for hours on end, praying they’ll end explaining themselves to you?

In today’s world, particularly in the world of business, people have very little time. Everybody wants to get in and get out, and get tasks over with. That’s why we have abstracts, executive summaries, blurbs, overviews, and all those differently-named things that are really cut from th
e same cloth. However, it is often difficult to synthesize significant amounts of information while keeping it relevant and in context…UNLESS you make it into a delightful visualization. I spent a good portion of my day today analyzing data without even realizing it! is a delightful way of presenting data in an interesting way that allows you to filter through and create correlations. Take, for instance, the massive amounts of data collected by the students in Eric Crighton’s class. They put the effort in, and now they’d like to see the results, presumably. How many of them, do you think, will want to read a 30-page report on their findings?

My point exactly. Now, take a gander at the visualization above. That is a synthesized version of the recommendations given to us for green space. Yes! All that data, those thousands of words, simplified into something that is visually appealing and accessible! The relationships are clear, the overall trends are visible, and most of all, it doesn't make your eyes burn after 15 seconds. Oh, the beauty. Don’t just take my word for it; play with the program when you have some free time, and see that everything can be made awesome if you try hard enough!


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