By definition, data visualization is a form of visual communication where data or information is presented in graphical or pictorial format. Studies have proven that it is easier for the human brain to process information when it is presented visually, allowing people to quickly grasp large amounts of information in a short time. It is one of the reasons for the popularity of Microsoft PowerPoint since it came out over two decades ago.
Data visualization is not a new concept, and it certainly didn’t start with computer technology. In fact, one of the first forms of data visualization can be traced back to the 2nd century A.D. with the use of columns and rows as a method of data arrangement. This was how the Roman Empire kept score of chariot races at the Circus Maximus.
Computer technology today uses a blend of art and science to gather information faster and convey it visually through a virtually automated process. With data visualization software, you can easily create much more than simple bar graphs and pie charts. Now, you can enliven presentations with infographics, geographic maps, bubble charts, and so many other interesting new ways of visual communication.
In fact, today’s data visualization tools are designed for nonexperts – people who are not data analysts – to help them organize, analyze, and consolidate information. These tools help you transform massive amounts of data to create images that are relevant to your audience, conveying insights in a way that captures and holds their attention.
The best data visualization tools enable users to interact with data, unlike one-dimensional tables and charts that can only be viewed. For example, people with different points of view or presentation needs can build dashboards in real time, using the same data, even when working remotely. Or they can use data visualization to take complex variations in situations and conditions, and change them into a picture clearly illustrating the differences.
In short, that’s the meaning of data visualization as it is being used today. The technology is available, accessible, and affordable for just about everyone – in businesses small and large, the public sector, education – and it’s catching on everywhere. Because everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words.