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A Guide to Data Visualization and Resources

Posted on: March 17, 2023

If you're a professional working with large amounts of information, you know how important it is to be able to understand and communicate your findings. That's where data visualization comes in — it helps you turn raw data into visual displays, like charts and graphs, that are easy to comprehend and share with others.

By using data visualization tools and dashboards, you can better analyze and present your data in a way that's clear and meaningful. Plus, working with data visualization can be a great way to collaborate with your team and get everyone on the same page. From tools and techniques to helpful resources, we've got everything you need to start making the most of data visualization. So, let's get started!

Understanding Data Visualization

Data visualization refers to the practice of creating a visual representation of data and information in order to understand, analyze, and communicate insights and trends. It involves using a variety of data science tools — such as Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Microsoft Excel, and Qlik Sense — and visualization techniques to create visual displays that can be easily understood by others.

What Can Data Visualization Be Used For? IconWhat Can Data Visualization Be Used For?

Data visualization can be used for a wide range of purposes. Some of the main ways in which data visualization can be used include:

  1. Uncovering hidden insights: By visualizing data, you can quickly spot patterns and trends that might not have been obvious from just looking at raw data. It allows you to see the bigger picture and uncover insights that might have been overlooked otherwise.
  2. Simplifying complex data: Data visualization can simplify a complex data set, making it more accessible and understandable for a wider audience. It can help break down information and present it in a format that is more manageable to process and retain.
  3. Communicating information effectively: Data visualization is a great way of presenting data in a clear and engaging way, helping others to easily understand the information by using visual cues.
  4. Monitoring progress: By creating an interactive dashboard, you can monitor key metrics in real-time and track progress. This can be particularly useful for professionals in businesses, government organizations and non-profits in making data-driven decisions.
  5. Identifying trends and patterns: By visualizing data, you can easily identify patterns and trends, which can be important for identifying potential problems or opportunities.
  6. Supporting decision-making: Data visualization can provide stakeholders with the information they need to make informed decisions. By presenting data in a clear and intuitive way, you can help people that may not be familiar with the data to quickly grasp what it means.
  7. Discovering correlations: Visualizing data may help you identify correlations between different variables that might not be obvious from just looking at it in its raw data form. This can be useful for understanding complex systems and identifying potential cause-and-effect relationships.

Types of Data Visualizations iconTypes of Data Visualizations

There are many different types of data visualization tools and techniques that can be used to format data. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the right choice will depend on the specific data set and information you're working with. Some examples include:

  • Bar charts are great for comparing data across categories. For example, a sales analyst can use a bar chart to compare the sales of a product across different countries or regions, showing the number of units sold in each location, and also as a way to show changes over time, such as the revenue generated by month. Here is an example of a bar chart:

    Example of a Bar Chart

    Source: Data Visualization in Excel by Jonathan Schwabish

  • Box plots are a useful way to show patterns and outliers in data. Imagine you are a manufacturer and you want to compare the quality of products from different factories. You can use a box plot to show the distribution of quality measurements for each factory. Box plots can give a general idea of center, spread and skewness of the data, so you can make a fair comparison.
  • Gantt charts are commonly used in project management to visualize the progress of tasks over time. For instance, to study the progress of a construction project, showing the interdependencies of each task and the percentage of completion. Here is an example of a Gantt chart:

    Example of a Gantt chart

    Source: Data Visualization in Excel by Jonathan Schwabish

  • Treemaps are used to show hierarchical data, such as studying a website's structure and pages organization — or understanding the distribution of a company's expenses by category.
  • Heat maps are used to show data distributed across a two-dimensional space, such as on a map. For example, to study the crime rate by area in a city, using heat maps to show crime hot spots, with different levels of intensity. Here is an example of a heat map:

    Example of a Heat map

    Source: Data Visualization in Excel by Jonathan Schwabish

  • Pie charts are a great way to show the proportions of different categories, such as studying the market share of different companies in a specific industry and comparing parts of a whole.
  • Scatter plots are best used to show patterns in data by showing the relationship between two variables. For example, to study the correlation between height and weight by plotting each point and observing the pattern.
  • Histograms are used to show the distribution of continuous variables. Imagine you want to know the age distribution of your customer base. A histogram would be a great tool to help you see how many customers fall into different age ranges. By using a histogram you can quickly identify patterns and outliers, such as a spike in customers who are under 25 years old. Here is an example of a histogram:

    Example of a Histogram

    Source: Data Visualization in Excel by Jonathan Schwabish

  • Line charts are used to visualize trends over time. For example, for tracking the daily temperature of a city over the course of a year, or monitoring the stock prices performance of a company over a period of time.
  • Word clouds can be used to quickly identify the most common words in a body of text. For example, a data analysis of the most frequent keywords in a news article or the most common feedback in customer reviews.


Data Visualization FreeBook

Data Visualization FreeBook

This free resource contains a careful selection of chapters from some of the latest books in the AK Peters Visualization Series. Like the series, these chapters capture what visualization is today in all its variety and diversity, presenting insights from leading practitioners, designers, researchers, and enthusiasts. It includes guidance on science communication, infographics, physical data visualization, creative or unconventional data visualization, and even the use of triangles.



Benefits of Data Visualization iconBenefits of Data Visualization

Data visualization has numerous benefits for professionals such as data scientists, business analysts, market researchers and more. Some of the key benefits include:

  1. Enhanced data analytics: Data visualization can be a powerful tool for data analytics and business intelligence, as it allows professionals to quickly identify patterns, trends and relationships in the data they are working with. By visualizing the data, they can gain a deeper understanding of what it's telling them, and make more informed decisions based on that insight.
  2. Improved communication: One of the biggest benefits of data visualization is that it can make quantitative information easier to understand and interpret. By presenting information in a visual format, professionals can quickly convey complex ideas to others without having to spend a lot of time explaining them. This can be especially useful when presenting to stakeholders or team members who may not be as familiar with the data — which helps improve communication overall.
  3. Enhanced collaboration: When data is presented visually, it's much easier for multiple people to collaborate on the analysis. This is a useful advantage for teams that are spread out across geographical locations and time zones — as long as they have access to the same data visualization tool, they can work together seamlessly. And by sharing visualizations among the team, professionals can get everyone on the same page and work together on data-driven projects.
  4. Increased productivity: Work flows more efficiently when everyone understands and agrees on the data. When the visualization process is collaborative, as noted above — multiple people can review the same visualizations and ensure that they’re all working with the same quantitative information. By reducing errors caused by miscommunication or misunderstanding, professionals can work faster and more efficiently.
  5. New insights: Data visualization can help you see things that you might not have noticed before. It’s a way to get the complete picture, so to speak. And when multiple people review the same visualizations, they can point out things that others might not have seen. This leads to new insights — and ultimately, better decision-making processes.

Best Practices When Using Data Visualization iconBest Practices When Using Data Visualization

Data visualization is a powerful tool, but it's important to use it correctly to effectively communicate your findings. Otherwise, you might miss some important details and make incorrect conclusions. Here are some best practices for using data visualization:

  • Start with a clear goal in mind: Before you begin to create a data visualization, it's important to know what you're trying to achieve. What do you want the audience to learn from your analysis? What questions do you want them to be able to answer after looking at your visualizations? Make sure that your visualizations clearly convey this information.
  • Choose the right visualization type: When deciding which type of graph to use, think about what kind of information is most important for your audience to understand. In some cases, it's possible to use more than one type of visualization to provide multiple perspectives on the same data set; for example, you might create a line chart showing monthly sales figures for each product category over several years as well as a bar graph showing how much revenue each category generated last year.
  • Keep it simple: When it comes to data visualization, less is often more. Avoid cluttering your visualizations with too many elements and choose a design that's easy to follow. When in doubt, err on the side of simplicity. After all, if your audience has a hard time understanding the data, they won't be able to draw any conclusions from it.
  • Use accurate and appropriate data: It's important to use accurate and appropriate data in your visualizations. Double-check your data source and make sure that the data you're using is relevant to your goals. Keep in mind that the more accurate and timely your data is, the better your visualizations will be to accurately reflect reality.
  • Consider your audience: It's important to consider your audience when you're creating a visualization, especially if you're creating one for external stakeholders. You should think about their level of knowledge and what questions they may have about the data. You can also try asking people from different backgrounds how they would interpret your data; this will help identify any gaps in communication that could result from using certain visual elements or displaying information in a certain way.

Additional Resources from Routledge iconAdditional Resources from Routledge & CRC Press

At Routledge & CRC Press, we publish a wide range of resources that can help individuals learn about and improve their skills in data visualization. Our offerings include books and online resources that cover various aspects of the field, including design principles, techniques for creating effective visualizations and tools for working with different types of data.

These resources can be beneficial for those who are new to data visualization to experienced professionals looking to stay current with the latest developments in the field. We offer guides on using easily accessible tools like Excel to create visualizations, as well as more conceptual books that explore the theory and practice of data visualization.

The AK Peters Visualization Videocast Series iconThe AK Peters Visualization Videocast Series

We strive to provide a diverse range of resources to serve the needs of our audience and help them to improve their understanding and skills in data visualization. That's why, in addition to our traditional resources, at Routledge & CRC Press, we have also started the AK Peters Visualization Videocast Series which is dedicated to capturing the current state of visualization in all its variety and diversity.

This series aims to give voice to researchers, practitioners, designers and enthusiasts in the field — and encompasses books from all subfields of visualization. This series provides an accessible and engaging platform for learning about the latest advancements and insights in data visualization through conversations with authors. Providing a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the current trends and challenges in the field, this series offers a complementing way of interacting with the experts that are in the know of what's happening in visualization.

View our complete library of Data Visualization books. With our resources, you will have the power to create captivating data visualizations that not only convey important information but also leave a lasting impact on your audience. With a focus on both function and design, we empower you to master the art of data visualization and rise above the competition.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced professional, our resources are tailored to help you unlock your full potential and take your skills to the next level. Come and explore the world of data visualization with us, where the possibilities are endless!