Visualizing to *Find* Your Data Story

I consistently run across folks interested in visualizing a data set to reveal some compelling insight, or tell a strong story to support an argument.  However, the inevitably focus on the final product, rather than the process to get there.  People get stuck on the visual that tells their story, forgetting about the visuals that help them find their story.   The most important visualizations of your data are the ones that help you find and debug your story, not the final one you make to tell your story.  This is why I recommend Tableau Public as a great tool to learn, because its native language is the visual representation of your data.  Excel’s native language is the data in a tabular form, not the visuals that show that data.

Here are some other tools I introduce in the Data Scraping and Civic Visualization short course I teach here at MIT (CMS.622: Applying Media Technologies in Arts and Humanities).

  • Use word clouds to get a quick overview of your qualitative text data (try Tagxedo)
  • Tools Overview:find all of these on website
  • Use Quartz ChartBuilder to make clean and simple charts, without all the chartjunk
  • Use timelines to understand a story over time (try TimelineJS)
  • Experiment with more complicated charting techniques with Raw (a D3.js chart generator)
  • Make simple maps with Google Maps, analyze your data cartographically with CartoDB, or make your own with Leaflet.js
  • Test your story’s narrative quickly with a infographic generator like Infogram

Curios for more?  See own website for more tools that we have reviewed.