Effective Communication with Data Visualization Tools

by Faizaan Yousuf

Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. It describes an effort to help people understand the significance of data.The main aim of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and efficiently to people via statistical graphics, plots, information graphics, tables, and charts selected. Effective visualization helps users in analyzing and reasoning data and evidence. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable, and usable.

“Main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. It doesn’t mean that data visualization needs to look boring to be functional or extremely sophisticated to look beautiful. To convey ideas effectively, both aesthetic form and functionality need to go hand in hand, providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way. Yet designers often fail to achieve a balance between form and function, creating gorgeous data visualizations which fail to serve their main purpose — to communicate information” … Friedman

Now the question is which chart to select and use for Data Visualization ?

Data Visualization Tools

  1. Trend Chart/Line Chart : A single variable is captured over a period of time, such as the no. of clinical trials for last 5-year period. A line chart may be used to demonstrate the trend.
  2. Bar Chart: Categorical subdivisions are ranked in ascending or descending order, such as a comparing the no. of clinical trials between two institutes. A bar chart may be used to show comparison across two or more variables. It should be noted that bar charts’ baseline must start at zero.
  3. Part-to-whole/Pie Chart : Categorical subdivisions are measured as a ratio to the whole (i.e., a percentage out of 100%). A pie chart or bar chart can show the comparison of ratios, across two or more variables.
  4. Deviation: Categorical subdivisions are compared against a reference, such as a comparison of actual vs. budget expenses for several departments of a business for a given time period. A bar chart can show comparison of actual versus the reference amount.
  5. Frequency distribution: It is usually used to show number of observations of a particular variable for a given interval, such as number of years in which the stock market return is between intervals such as 0-10%, 11-20%, etc. A histogram, a type of bar chart, may be used for this analysis.
  6. Geographic or geospatial: This chart is used to show a variable across a map or layout, such as the no. of clinical trials by state etc..

To put it simply, the aim is to plot charts which tell the story clearly and communicate data accurately.

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