The Art of Data Visualisation: Use Data to Tell Stories

Data is everywhere.

From open government data to business databases to your own private “quantified-self” data, there’s so much to play with.

You need reliable and accurate data. But this is not what makes a difference.

What really matters is the art of data visualisation.

Telling Stories that Create Change in People

Mastering data visualisation makes you a storyteller, an artist. It requires to take raw data sets and turn them into visual stories that will change how we see things, how we make decisions.

You must have fun playing with the data and need to know how to tell stories visually. These skills are scarce (and therefore in demand).

But you don’t need big data to make a visual impact in people’s lives.

Wait But Why’s Tim Urban makes you change you view on how short life is. [1]

See the impact of visualising the total number of weeks in someone’s life—if she or he is lucky enough to live for 90 years:

The Art of Data Visualisation: See how life is short

Simple data set. Remarkable way of visualising it.

Being “Data-Driven” Sucks

Data doesn’t drive our decisions. This is the story that the data tells you that helps you to make more informed decisions.

But for that, you need someone who opens your mind through the art of data visualisation.

This is rare. Because junk charts are everywhere…



Note about the Art of Data Visualisation

[1] Here’s the same story with another way to visualise the data.

A human life divided in months:


Damn. This is short…

Fighting Data Overload with Visualisation

Visualising information helps us see the patterns and the connections that matter. Using our eyes more allow us to focus on the information that is important. Visualisation information helps us tell stories with data.

“It feels to me that design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions, and information design is about solving information problems.”

— David McCandless

For example, the human mind can’t really get the concept of billions of dollars. Except if you’re used to deal with large scale projects, it is difficult to get a good grasp of what $1 billion means. It doesn’t make any sense.

The only way to understand it is visually. You can compare it to other billion dollars issues and projects.

The Billion Dollar-o-Gram is good example of data visualisation that leverages comparison.

Here’s a visualisation of projects, issues, and so on that were worth billions of dollars in 2009:

Visualisation of Data with the Billion Dollar-o-Gram

It makes you realise the scale of the Beijing Games 2008 compared to the funding of NASA.

More about this in the following TED Talk: