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Creating a new generation of data to solve social problems.

A recent blog post at GOOD touched on a key concept in the design of effective data visualization:

“Every form of visualization should tell a story. Unfortunately there is limited attention and time to process all the stories. So the gist of the story, or its immediate impact, should be visible right away. The term I like to use for this principle is “glanceability.” What does a visualization tell us before we take time to analyze it?”

As you ponder the myriad ways in which you might use data to help tell a story, be it in a PowerPoint presentation to the board, a marketing piece on a website, a sidebar in an annual report, etc., consider the user.  If they want to interperet the data on their own, you can just give them a data set.  But you're using the data to tell them a story.  The visualization is your medium for doing that.  If you weren’t there, would your story tell itself?

Analysts exist because data, by itself, doesn’t tell the story.  Visualization is a powerful method of conveying your conclusion so that they are quickly and easily understood.  A good visualization is worth a 1,000 words.  If you find that have to include the 1,000 words for your visualization to be understood, consider a different approach.