This weekend I started watching some interviews with top data viz designers and ran across a fascinating visualization that communicated the results of discussions on Wikipedia regarding whether to delete or keep certain articles. The designer reminded me of the concepts that Alberto Cairo speaks of in his book “The Functional Art”. How do you make something that really engages your audience in exploring the data and provides them with a memorable experience? Often artistic and quite abstract designs can work really well in the world of journalism. The consumers feel a sense of accomplishment when they arrive at something insightful. Entertainment is part of the experience. But many of these designs would probably frustrate a business leader who needs to quickly comprehend the meaning of the data so that they can be efficient in their decision making.
When weighing your options, consider these things:
- Is the purpose of the viz to answer specific questions, or is it more exploratory?
- How long does it take to arrive at something insightful using different forms of the data?
- Does mixing new forms with traditional ones offer new and interesting perspectives?
- How will users interface with the format (interactively, print, email, touch device)?
- Does precision matter or is the purpose to see the bigger picture?
Below is a screenshot of the Wikipedia viz I recreated which is clearly a more artistic expression of the data that is focused on the bigger picture. It encourages the user to play with and explore the data. The new form comes with instructions to guide the consumer in how to interpret it. It is mixed with a more traditional format to offer a different perspective and a more familiar expression of information. This can be accessed by clicking on a line. To play with it yourself, follow this link: http://public.tableausoftware.com/shared/GTD42HR4S?:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no
Behind the viz, you will find a related blog post where I talk about the original viz and how it was remade in Tableau. As with anything on Tableau Public, you can download the workbook to open in Tableau Desktop. Remember, Tableau is fundamentally a tool that lets you draw with data. Your imagination is typically the only limit on what you can create.