This is the first article in a three-part series on Information Design.
Today, you have faster access to more data than ever. Not to mention better tools to manipulate and visualize it.
What are you going to do with it all?
If you’re like me, your first thought is to create a cool data representation as fast as possible! (And to be honest, that’s exactly what I use to do).
Fair enough. Everyone likes new toys, right? But if you want to use data visualization for anything other than a hobby, you’re going to have to shift your focus away from “art for art’s sake” to the practical effects of your work.
There is a tremendous premium on meaningful data visualizations.
And this premium will continue to grow right alongside the increasing quantity of data and the power of software tools that visualize it.
The time is fast approaching when the “data visualization challenge” won’t be creating them. It will be interpreting them! When all data can be beautifully visualized, it will be difficult to know which of it can improve lives and support businesses decisions in the real world.
An information designer’s role is to overcome tomorrow’s data visualization challenge for others.
As an Information Designer, you have three closely-related skills necessary to translate data into insights that actually matter.
Defining the purpose you want to achieve with data. Note that this question is not about what you can create with the data. (Even though that’s where most people usually want to start.) Whatever you create should support your goal. Creation shouldn’t be your goal, per se.
Turning data into information that has purposeful meaning. Data, by itself with no context, comes “as is,” with no intended meaning attached. Someone viewing the data may draw their own conclusions about meaning(s) in the data, but with raw data you have little or no control over what that conclusion will be. When you give data context, e.g. by organizing or summarizing it, you are taking control of the meaning you want the data to convey to other people. In other words, you are turning the data into information. The information you create should, of course, support the goal you identified in the previous step.
Emphasizing that purposeful meaning with carefully considered visual design. Once you have given context to data to create information, there are many ways to visualize it. The right way to visualize it will emphasize the meaning you have chosen to convey. Identifying and building – i.e. designing – the ideal presentation format for your data will maximize your intended effect.