This article is the “T” 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 starts with outlining the basics of Time Series in data points, and then continues to explain Tree Maps, along with “What are Infographics?”

Time Series

“A time series is a sequence of data points drawn from successive equally spaced points in time. Thus it is a sequence of discrete-time data. Examples of time series are heights of ocean tides, counts of sunspots, and the daily closing value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.”  

Using a continuous flow adds a sense of dimension that allows the viewer to understand more easily as it maintains the integrity of the data over a period of time.

Napoleon’s March to Moscow by Charles Joseph Minard

time series visualization

Timelines

Timelines are any type of charts that display a chronological order of events. The type is based on personal choice as some use lines, others choose points or bars as representations of spans of time. Interactive timelines have become popular as they can be scaled or adjustable.

Beyond just use for historical events, timelines can plot other areas such as epidemic and disease states, astronomical events, and geological timelines. Gantt charts are another type of timeline that is commonly used in business. The Gantt charts demonstrate dependencies as well as duration of tasks and sequenced interaction.

timelines

Treemaps

Invented in 1992 by Ben Shneiderman, treemaps use nested rectangles to display a hierarchical data set whole. They bring a method to visualize tree structures when you have a layout that is space-constrained.

The individual branches of a treemap is given a rectangle which has smaller rectangles tiled in to represent sub-branch data. The rectangle area is proportional to a specified dimension of data and is typically colored to demonstrate categorizations within the treemap. Using this format, the viewer can easily see hidden patterns that might not show up on standard area or bar charts. Treemaps not only display a familiar tree structure but also correlate the size of particular nodes. They are often useful for displaying various hierarchy that have the smallest or largest quantities associated within their group.  

Treemaps are well used in conditions with a lot of data that needs to be expressed in a compact space. Many pieces of information can be displayed on the screen simultaneously. But caution should be used in crowding too much, as it becomes illegible.

treemaps

What are Infographics?

In data visualization, infographics are a bit of a unique beast. This is a type of graphics that have both data and information as well as a flow. Infographics have the ability to simplify complex information into one view.

It’s important to understand how people see an infographic because if it contains too much data and imagery without a clear path for the flow, it can cause chaos and confusion. Done correctly, infographics can create an entirely new method of viewing the world of data and can convey lots of information in an entertaining way.

An infographic should have a starting point that follows through with easy-to-read illustrations to tell the story. If there is a sense of balance and aesthetics, the viewer will be able to analyze and understand the data that is being presented.

The important elements of a good infographic should include:

  1. Presenting complex information clearly and quickly.
  2. Integrating graphics and words to reveal patterns, information or trends.
  3. The ability to understand images more easily than just having text alone.
  4. An engaging and attractive appearance.

infographics

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