This article is the “W” part of a series of tips and formats (in alphabet order) to help you convey your data visualization messages in the best way possible.  Starting with A for “Area Charts” and going all the way through W for “Word Clouds,” the pros and cons of each data visualization format will be explained and illustrated. This article explains “What is Interactive Infographics?” and then ends with describing Word Clouds.

Interactive Infographics

In today’s technology terms, anything that is listed as ‘interactive’ involves the participation of a person. This can range from both mouse or touch screen, but typically allows the individual to discover some of the elements of the infographics on their own.

Interactive infographics displays a dataset in a visual format but with the added ability to use a mouse-over, zoom or touchscreen to offer different coordinated views. Many of the interactive infographics make use of web-based data sets which offers closer real-time information, however, the data sources can be gleaned from a number of data streams for the use in comparison. Data that has a lot of overlapping categories and connections are good candidates for interactive infographics.

Interactive Infographics

Motion Graphics:

Motion graphics differ from interactive infographics in that they use actual animation or video footage to demonstrate the illusion of motion and does not involve the interaction of the viewer to transform the image on their own. Motion graphics offer a next level of sophistication and usually include audio so that it appears closer to an actual film or multimedia format.

The concept of computer generated motion graphics can be attributed to one of the fathers of the industry, John Whitney, whose computer animation gave birth to varying digital processes for viewing. In today’s versions there are a number of additional features that can be used including full data visualization, speech, text, video, special effects and 3D to add interesting elements. It should be noted that some also make use of traditional animation but this format is more expensive and time consuming.

Motion Graphics

For a good example of Motion Graphics, check out this example from National Geographic.

Data Visualization Definition

“Data visualization is a general term that describes any effort to help people understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context. Patterns, trends and correlations that might go undetected in text-based data can be exposed and recognized easier with data visualization software.”

The concept of data visualization expands beyond just the definition; it is the fine art of transforming information into a single visual image that conveys a message, tells a story and often uses numbers and data to get an idea across. Through the use of images, it cuts to the chase without lengthy text and wording and allows the viewer to understand more quickly. The image itself transcends the world of numbers and mundane data sets, often from multiple sources, and teases out everything from hidden trends to complete results that would be lost in spreadsheets.

Data visualization takes many forms in today’s technology realm and each one has a purpose, use and targeted methodology.
Data Visualization Image and design by FiveThirtyEight

Word Clouds

Word clouds are also called weighted lists or tag clouds and are visual representations of text data. While they began to make an appearance in the 1990’s, they mainly became popular due to the internet. The most commonly used method of word clouds is to display tags or keywords on websites or to offer a visualization of the most important words within a piece of text. The words are displayed in a font size that is proportional to its importance within the data set. When viewed, it’s easy to differentiate the most prominent word and therefore comprehend that it carries he most weight in the display.

Due to the web use, word clouds have been overused. There are quite a few variations in laying out a word cloud; they can appear in an alphabetic order, sorted by prominence or in some cases, simply in a random order but highlighted by color, font size and weight for the importance. The most effective word clouds make use of the way we view and read and therefore horizontal text with alphabetic sorting can be scanned and read easily.  
Word Clouds

Now that you have reviewed all of the various options available you can begin to establish the groundwork for the type of presentations. Take your findings from boring spreadsheets and catapult them into exciting designs that entice and engage the viewers.

Reach out to the people that need to see your information in a new light so that you can tell the story that communicates insights and offers inspiration.

Image credit: Lance Shields

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