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an example of data visualization

What is Data Visualization and Applications

A picture is worth a thousand words – especially when we are trying to understand and discover insights from data. Visuals are especially helpful when we’re trying to find relationships among hundreds or thousands of variables to determine their relative importance – or if they are important at all. Regardless of how much data we have, one of the best ways to discern important relationships is through advanced analysis and high-performance data visualization. If sophisticated analyses can be performed quickly, even immediately, and results presented in ways that showcase patterns and allow querying and exploration, people across all levels in our organization can make faster, more effective decisions.


Data visualizations are surprisingly common in our everyday life, but they often appear in the form of well-known charts and graphs. A combination of multiple visualizations and bits of information is often referred to as infographics. Data visualizations can be used to discover unknown facts and trends. You may see visualizations in the form of line charts to display change over time. Bar and column charts are helpful when observing relationships and making comparisons. Pie charts are a great way to show parts of a whole. And maps are the best way to visually share geographical data.

“Data visualization is the presentation of quantitative information in a graphical form. In other words, data visualizations turn large and small datasets into visuals that are easier for the human brain to understand and process”.

Data visualization concerns the manipulation of sampled and computed data for comprehensive display. The goal of the data visualization is to bring to the user a deeper understanding of the data as well as the underlying physical laws and properties. Such visualization may be used to enlighten a physicist on the complex interaction between electrons, to guide the medical practitioner in a surgery situation, or simply to view the surface of a planet, which has never been seen by human eyes.

The important aspects of interactive visualization can be broken down into three categories:

Computation- the ability to speedily compute visualization, this may include computing a polygonal approximation to is surface of a scalar function, the computation of a particle trace through a time-dependent vector field, or any action which requires extracting an abstract object or representation from the data being examined.

Display- the ability to quickly display the computed visualization, display encompasses both computed visualizations as listed above, as well as direct display methods such as volume visualization and ray tracing.

Querying- the ability to interactively probe a displayed visualization for the purpose of further understanding on a fine scale what is begin displayed on a coarser scale.

Importance of Data Visualization

Better Decision Making

Today more than ever, organizations are using data visualizations, and data tools, to ask better questions and make better decisions. Emerging computer technologies and new user-friendly software programs have made it easy to learn more about your company and make better data-driven business decisions. The strong emphasis on performance metrics, data dashboards, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) shows the importance of measuring and monitoring company data. Common quantitative information measured by businesses includes units or product sold revenue by quarter, department expenses, employee stats, and company market share.

  • Meaningful Storytelling: Data visualizations and information graphics (infographics) have become essential tools for today’s mainstream media. Data journalism is on the rise and journalists consistently rely on quality visualization tools to help them tell stories about the world around us. Many well-respected institutions have fully embraced data-driven news including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Scientific American, CNN, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, and The Economist.
  • Data Literacy: Being able to understand and read data visualizations has become a necessary requirement for the 21st century. Because data visualization tools and resources have become readily available, more and more non-technical professionals are expected to be able to gather insights from data.

Data visualization, the use of images to represent information, is only now becoming properly appreciated for the benefits it can bring to business. It provides a powerful means both to make sense of data and to then communicate what we’ve discovered to others. Despite their potential, the benefits of data visualization are undermined today by a general lack of understanding. Many of the current trends in data visualization are actually producing the opposite of the intended effect, confusion rather than understanding. Nothing going on in the field of business intelligence today can bring us closer to fulfilling its promise of intelligence in the workplace than data visualization.

The Importance of Visualizations in Business

A visual can communicate more information than a table in a much smaller space. This trait of visuals makes them more effective than tables for presenting data. For example, notice the table below, and try to spot the month with the highest sales.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Sales 45 56 36 58 75 62

This data when visualized gives you the same information in a second or two.

an example of data visualization

Figure 1 An example of data visualization

Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.’ This trait of visualizations is what makes them vital to businesses


[1] Chandrajit Bajaj, “Data Visualization Techniques”, 1998 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

[2] “What is Data Visualization?” available online at:

[3] “Principles of Data Visualization - What We See in a Visual”, White Paper, FusionCharts

[4] Stephen Few and Perceptual Edge, “Data Visualization Past, Present, and Future”, Innovation Center, Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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