What exactly is DataViz? Definitions for dummies
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Red graph line made from objects in office desk, graph indicates improvement Photo Credit: JW LTD / Getty Images Israel

These tools can help you get a better grasp of your data

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

When Confucius said this sentence back then, he didn’t have a computer. Nowadays it is truer than ever when you look at all the data that companies are collecting. However, they are still difficult to analyze, explain and share.

This is when data visualization (or DataViz) comes out to shine. We all spend hours trying to analyze our data from never ending Excel files. “Dataviz” ends this tedious task, helping to communicate figures or raw information by transforming it into visual objects like points, bars, curves, and cartographies. Uniting simple functionalities and aesthetics help to save a lot of time in research and data analysis. It’s also a very powerful communication tool.

“Data visualization is the art of speaking about figures, in a creative and playful way, where Excel files fail. It’s kind of [like] putting music on encrypted information” says Charles Miglietti, an expert in data visualization and co-founder of Toucan Toco.

For a clearer understanding of how visualization tools can make data far more digestible, try to see how many times the number 6 pops up in this image below.

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

Not so easy is it?

Now let’s put the “6” into color, making it pop more.

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

Data visualization takes its roots from the Gestalt theory’s concepts. We are talking about psychological bias: human beings tend to organize visual items by groups. It allows us to see forms more easily thanks to colors and visual processes.

A more concrete example can be found in analyzing an Excel file in order to identify the most heavily visited countries. Looking at this table indicates, it shows the values for each country. But is this the best way to easily and quickly organize these countries?

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

Now, if we put these data on a map, using a color chart for the visitation rate, it becomes much easier to understand.

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

When useful data are highlighted in an ergonomic and colorful way, it’s way easier. Brains are heavily reliant on the visual and have to sift through. In order to e need to extract useful information from the superabundance of data and erase excesses.

Focus on the essential for easier decision making

Searching and interpreting data from a table is often long and frustrating. DataViz offers a huge gain of time. The access to data is quick, precise and easy to understand. Business data are often scattered on different mediums, which leads to a more difficult analyze. Dataviz allows you to gather them into one screen with precise charts. These indicators are gathered into ergonomic dashboards you can use in real time. They are showing you trends that cannot be seen otherwise. So now, it’s easier to make informed decisions.

Improve transparency and communication

The pros of using Dataviz in a company is that it allows regular people and decision maker to manipulate data. This without being an expert or an analyst. People who could have felt excluded from data, have now access to it. This is a huge improvement for information transparency. Communication between departments is easier as once complicated finance figures are now translated into beautiful visuals.

Data storytelling: Share an idea

DataViz makes it easy to travel from one piece of information to another while using massive databases. You can show different types of data through graphics.

However, during a presentation, the goal isn’t only to speak about results. You have to offer an overview of your whole activity; to make a funnel-shaped analyze to understand a fluctuation. Pedagogy should be applied to the whole context so that the public gets the meaning of all data.

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

The Guardian is a good example on how you can use data storytelling to simplify a difficult matter. We all think our purchasing power decreased for the past 30 years. Our incomes are higher today but the cost of living has increased as well. The comparison is difficult to make. This visualization brings transparency and shows us that our standard of living actually is increasing for some people.

This is a good example of storytelling. It visually explains the evolution by comparing different countries, age categories and years. It comes here with some short commentaries to guide the audience. That is a powerful way of communication.

Either for HR and staff evolution or for finance and balance sheet understanding and so on, each data brings a message. Each chart should have a clear and precise message to facilitate understanding. This is data storytelling.

Data tools

Excel and PowerPoint charts are frequently used, but their functionalities are limited and sometimes misused. For instance, the famous pie chart becomes useless with more than 3 or 4 values because it is hard to simply compare which one is bigger than the other.

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

#Piechartfail

Companies and institutions are increasingly using data visualization tools, often presented as dashboards with varying degrees of precision.

Image Credit: Toucan Toco

Dataviz is also used for amusement. It’s easier to “read” news presented through a beautiful visual form than through a never-ending article. For example, here is the CAC 40 participation per company on the French market.

Beyond this example, we can even show data with animations or even videos. We recommend watching Billion-Dollar-A-gram, by David McCandless, a real master in this field!

Esthetical, functional, easy to use: data visualization is a power tool to democratize access to data. It facilitates comprehension and analyze of figures and helps bring transparency in companies. When a story actually tells something, DataViz is the best ally for decision-makers.

Interested in learning more about DataViz? Don’t hesitate to read our other articles on our blog, or to contact us through our website.

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Kilian Bazin

About Kilian Bazin


Kilian is 29 years old. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique (General Engineering) and from Mines ParisTech (Innovation & entrepreneurship). He worked as an analyst for iSource and a Chief of Experience for Captain Dash. Today, he manages a team of 35 people for Toucan Toco.

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