What is data visualization?

"What numbers cannot communicate in a table becomes visible and intelligible when communicated visually. This is the power of data visualization". Aporta Initiative - Government of Spain

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By Gabriel Jimenez. Published: August 15, 2021

The consumption of information has increased exponentially due to the massive production and the expansion of access. The ability to understand information is closely related to our ability to transform it. Here is where data acquires meaning. Technological development has led to an evolution in its use to design more reliable understanding mechanisms, among which data visualization or dataViz stands out.

Data visualization is the presentation of information and data with a graphical and illustrative character. The use of tools such as graphs, maps, and charts allows us to see and understand trends and values in the data simply. In addition, as part of building data science, when data goes through the collection, processing, and modeling, it is necessary to visualize it for analysis and conclusions. In this way, decision-makers can graphically access the study and data, making understanding complex patterns or concepts easier.

Charles Minard Dataviz

The use of images to understand data dates back to the 17th century, through the invention of the pie chart in 1800. Decades later, Charles Minard mapped Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, showing the route by which Napoleon retreated from Moscow and the military capabilities of the armies. It was interwoven with data, such as time and temperature scales, thus providing depth to the understanding of the invasion.

Nowadays, technology has become the central stimulant to expand data visualization since computers have made it possible to process large amounts of data quickly.

Data visualization is also a visual art form that captures the audience’s interest to convey a message. It is because 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual, as our 20 billion neurons process images at 60,000 times the speed of text. Although we rely on the other senses, the images we process daily allow us to build memory. That means the ability to tell a story with a purpose, illustrating factors such as trends or outliers, regardless of whether they hold large or small data sets.

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