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Data Viz 101: What is Data Visualization?

When you brainstorm using a mind map on a piece of paper, or organize your goals in a little chart on a white board, you are implementing something known as data visualization. Also referred to as data viz, data visualization is simply any which way you visually display your data.

Even if you're not familiar with the term, you’ve undoubtedly benefited from it in some form or another. If you drive (and are a good driver) you’ve looked at your speedometer and fuel gauge; if you cook, you may have used a meat gauge or thermometer, and if you’ve traveled somewhere new (or somewhere you’ve been before… no one’s judging) you’ve used a map.

Whiteboard Data Visualization

Data visualization is the rise in red dye in your thermometer, the little arm pointing to “empty” on your gas gauge, and the route you’ve marked off on your map. Data viz is every chart, graph, gauge, and white board doodle. It is, in essence, turning written data into visual data.

What are the benefits of visual data?

Why even bother with maps, thermometers, and white boards?
Because in terms of being able to quickly and easily understand information, visuals trump text. The human brain is an incredible pattern recognition engine; in fact, nearly 50% of our brain is connected to our vision in one manner or another. We all know that it’s simply easier to rely on maps or GPS instead of written directions. This is also why we have speedometers; can you imagine trying to drive well while having to read through a report of your driving speeds? Not happening.

Every organization can benefit from replacing text with visuals, whenever possible, to make business decisions easier. Just as visuals make everyday information easier to understand, they also make business information quicker to comprehend. And in a time of data overabundance, who wouldn't want something that not only makes your data easier to use, but reduces non-productive time?

(Coming soon, Data Viz 101: What is a Dashboard?)

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