When Data Visualization Works—and When It Doesn’t

by Jim Stikeleather

I am uncomfortable with the growing emphasis on big data and its stylist, visualization. Don’t get me wrong—I love infographic representations of large data sets. The value of representing information concisely and effectively dates back to Florence Nightingale, when she developed a new type of pie chart to clearly show that more soldiers were dying from preventable illnesses than from their wounds. On the other hand, I see beautiful exercises in special effects that show off statistical and technical skills, but do not clearly serve an informing purpose. That’s what makes me squirm.

Ultimately, data visualization is about communicating an idea that will drive action. ...

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