Visualizing Information is Hard

I just started an info viz project and I’m struggling a bit. So yesterday I hit the books and was reminded of some useful questions to get me started:

  • Is my visualization conceptual or data driven?
  • Is my visualization aiming to declare something to the reader or is it asking the reader to explore something?

The visualization I’m working on is for a proposal for something new so it’s definitely conceptual. As for the second question, my viz need to state a hypothesis so it’s declarative, “If we do X, then Y will happen.”

The next question is, “What types of visualizations express conceptual and declarative information?”

Maps come to mind. But maps seem cliche. A storyboard might be a better fit. The proposal is kind of like a script with specific actors playing specific roles with specific actions. There are some Yoda types who offer wisdom and encouragement and there are some Skywalker types who are on a hero’s journey.

I google “hero’s journey” but am unsatisfied with the visualization that I find: an individual hero on a lone path. That won’t do because our proposal has more of an “It takes a village” flavor. Our visualization needs to express a virtuous cycle as the Skywalker types become the Yoda types for future generations. That’s an important part of the story.

At this point, I put down the computer and pick up the pencil. It’s time to sketch.


related reading

The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations

Dear Data