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co. it’s clear that work needs to be done on the delivery mechanism.uk Design Peter Drake Production editor Stefan Leszczuk Printer the colourhouse Research Magazine 15 Northburgh Street London EC1V 0JR Published by the MRS. rather than the substance of what they read or heard. In this supplement we’ve gathered together experts to share with you the principles. This is where data visualisation comes in. If researchers want to deliver insights that have real business impact. It’s probably more accurate to say that they’ll recall the experience.uk Senior writer Joe Fernandez Advertising Guy Oliver 020 7566 1843 guy. Thanks to our sponsor Kantar.tarran@researchmagazine. skills and tools you need to make the most out of your data.INTRODUCTION Seeing is believing Most people will remember that one research presentation they had to sit through or the research report they had to read – the one with 100-plus charts and a word count to rival a short novel.org. while researchers and marketing executives discuss the ways they are putting data visualisation into practice. Finding new ways to share business-critical data in a manner that captures the attention of senior executives is essential. Brian Tarran. Chances are there was too much stuff there to make anything stick in the mind. 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 3 . editor Editor Brian Tarran 020 7566 1864 brian.oliver@mrs.

BRIEFING A still from an animation produced by City University professor Jo Wood showing the rst ve million journeys taken using London’s public bicycle hire scheme. King’s Cross/St Pancras and journeys to and from Waterloo Station to the City Telling tales There are many good reasons for researchers to embrace data visualisation. The three clusters are (from left to right) Hyde Park. One of them is to make people pay attention to the story you want to tell 4 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 .

“I’ve got a massive 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 5 . clearly doesn’t have to mean simply.BRIEFING Words Brian Tarran G ood design can be many different things to many different people. “To convey ideas effectively. But data visualisation tends to imply something more… impressive. There are rules of course. network maps of the blogosphere (bit.ly/57FakF) comparing different aspects of public expenditure. he said. do’s and don’ts to follow – the kind they teach in college. What we had to do was create a [visual] language. “Most other businesses are very organised and have a thorough understanding of how you present yourself and how you present data. based on numbers. If designers are sometimes guilty of prioritising what something looks like over its ability to convey a story.me/eW5es9) or David McCandless’s Billion Pound-o-Gram (bit. “Essentially.” Market researchers make similar mistakes. but it struck me that the research industry generally didn’t. Wood is professor of visual analytics. Each of these has something in common. nor does effectively mean immediate. you’re asking an organisation – and the industry generally – to have an appreciation of a particular process that has not been traditional to them. In July last year Lambie-Nairn was hired by research group TNS to become its first creative director. founder of Lambie-Nairn & Company and the man responsible for the original Channel 4 logo and the 1997 rebrand of the BBC. communicating information clearly and effectively.” But. a discipline that has emerged out of the US home security and defence sectors. “Yet designers often tend to discard the balance between design and function. City University’s Jo Wood is the man behind a popular recent visualisation showing the journeys taken by users of London’s “Boris bikes”. visual analytics is designed to address a class of problems that says. “The reason it’s arisen in those sectors is that they have the challenge of huge volumes of data and they need to pick out particular patterns – whether it’s terrorist activities or unusual behaviour or whatever.fb. Essentially. both aesthetic form and functionality need to go hand in hand. Line charts. show how it worked and change people from the inside.” he wrote.” Drawn to scale Visualising data is not new. Whether a data visualisation does what it’s meant to do really depends on who’s looking at it and what they take from it. It’s almost entirely subjective.” says Wood. founding editor of Smashing Magazine. renderings of the social media connections between people in different parts of the world (on. in visual form.ly/PzaW). pie charts and bar graphs are traditional ways of telling a story. Most would agree on the definition put forward by Vitaly Friedman. who in a 2008 article stated that: “The main goal of data visualisation is its ability to visualise data. He saw the job as a “challenge”. and how important it is. researchers are often guilty of trying to cram too much information into visualisations to the detriment of the narrative. but for them the balance skews the other way. the question of whether a piece of work is good or not is down to the individual. But ultimately. creating gorgeous data visualisations which fail to serve their main purpose – to communicate information.” says Martin Lambie-Nairn. the public bike hire scheme. as Friedman noted. For instance. That’s true of data visualisation too. They are ways of dealing with huge numbers and masses of data points and presenting them in a way that makes it easy for people to comprehend things that would otherwise be difficult to think about without a visual aid.

“People don’t have time to look at them. Sthanunathan says: “Fancy graphics are nice but if it’s going to take an extra week then I would prefer to just have the data earlier. “If you’re interested in telling a story. then obviously a visual language has a broader appeal: it draws the eye.” he says. the focus is on coming up with “the killer chart”.BRIEFING Provoking a reaction For people like Stan Sthanunathan. then. Sthanunathan says the process is to identify two or three “killer facts” that the insight team wants the senior executive team to remember. he says. a former consumer insights director at the firm. but there are very good reasons why clients are wanting more from their agencies’ deliverables.” David McCandless. Sthanunathan thinks researchers should think about storytelling “a little more broadly”. But visual analytics has emerged because there was a realisation that you need much more human input into that process of spotting the unusual or the important. shows the estimated remaining supplies of non-renewable resources and how many years until they run out. “Using a visual mechanism makes it easier to spot trends.” Wood says. a journalist turned information designer. Within General Mills. “This is the chart that makes an argument in a unique. There are so many ways in which you could potentially explore a dataset that you need some kind of guidance… We need this visual navigation to tell us 6 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 “We’re dealing with datasets that are much larger than they ever used to be. “You have to go through all the due diligence to figure out what the story is. “People are getting increasingly tired of busy charts. now a consultant. When you’ve chosen the data that you want to use. “What we want information to do is inspire and provoke people. by David McCandless’s Information is Beautiful Studio. but “most people get confused between a fact-based presentation and a fact-filled presentation”.” he says. clear and compelling way. “Traditionally that sort of analysis has been done through data mining and the like.” Data visualisation is just one way to achieve this. There are so many ways you could potentially explore a dataset that you need this visual navigation to tell you where to look” Jo Wood Professor of visual analytics.” Within Coca-Cola. says Jeffrey Hunter. big data or statistical outputs would of necessity be reduced to something very essential. I imagine very experienced researchers can see that kind of stuff in spreadsheets. vice president of marketing strategy and insights at The Coca-Cola Company. meanwhile. apprehend patterns and see outliers. Buried in there somewhere is something really important and I need to find it.” says Sthanunathan.” Stock Check. is attractive and impactful and cuts through the blizzard of information we’re often navigating through each day. City University . “But your story will only require some of the data that you have in your study.” For big companies like TNS.” It’s not only researchers that are guilty of this. impact is everything. Asked whether he’d be prepared to wait for his agency to deliver a piece of data visualisation. “but the fact that it’s easier visually makes it more widely accessible. spend some time thinking about how to bring it to life. agrees that. “We’re dealing with datasets that are much more complex and much larger than they ever used to be. General Mills abhors complexity (and jargon) and data visualisation of complex. Smartphone owners beware – indium-dependent touchscreens seem to have a very limited shelf-life dataset.” Hunter says: “I generally think of data visualisation as something we do with very complex or big data. he says. the focus is on where to look or what to look for.” Suppliers won’t be surprised to hear that time is of the essence.

” Rodenbeck’s belief in the “fun” potential of data visualisations positions him at the opposite end of the scale from the research buyers and suppliers who are looking for more in the way of function. creative director for Kantar.) Time to play Everybody interviewed for this supplement imagined a world where data visualisations become much more interactive and ‘live’ – with real-time information feeding in to them.” (For more of Cami’s thoughts. even with the reporting portals we’ve got. says the aim of his work is “to entertain by informing and inform by entertaining”.BRIEFING “industrialising” the data visualisation process.” says Ian Jarvis.” he says. a senior consultant who has been working with Martin Lambie-Nairn on what the agency calls Project Everest – a name that speaks of the scale of the task facing researchers.” Meanwhile Jarvis questions how much freedom people should get to work with real-time or massive datasets. “They’re bespoke pieces of work which are linked to databases. “I definitely want people to engage “There’s so much that you can learn by using your eyes. “The whole point of doing this work is to make something that’s visually robust or visually seductive enough to engage people initially. but which gives them more the more time they spend with it. not just immediately apparent. the yellow dots in a row show trades in a single stock at a single price of interactive portals still take “a hell of a lot of time and money to put together. who leads the data visualisation working party at Ipsos Mori. Stamen with our work and learn something – I just want them to have fun first. the outputs at the moment are fundamentally PowerPoint-based. Then you’ve got to design the portal and make sure the data links in properly. Much of what he does is for public consumption – “I’m not super-interested in tools for CEOs.” And yet giving people the freedom to play with data is important in helping them get comfortable with it. In the top image. whether technical or cultural. It’s not something that reveals itself all at once. see his piece on page 8. For me. Below that. though. but we’re also looking at more web-based opportunities because we feel that’s where the future lies. data visualisation is not just about answering the questions you already have. There’s so much that you can learn by using your eyes. “The automatic charting outputs are really quite wonderful. “At the moment if we do these.” says Aziz Cami. “I don’t want to go on record as being intentionally obscure. a single trader (in lime green) is responsible for the majority of shares. TNS’s parent company. it’s about finding better ways to ask new questions. is a question of technology.” says Roeland Nieuwenhuis. founder of design studio Stamen. Despite the availability of a host of free and paid for tools (see page 14) these sorts These images from Stamen’s Eric Rodenbeck show a minute’s worth of trading on the Nasdaq exchange. but I do think there’s a lot of room in this space for work that is richly interactive. Of course. data visualisation is not just about answering the questions you already have. “The danger is if you open up entire datasets to people they can do their own analysis and get it completely wrong. it’s about nding better ways to ask new questions” Eric Rodenbeck Founder. “We have built a system that works in such a way that it allows people to produce PowerPoint decks in a matter of seconds. Eric Rodenbeck. As such. he rejects the idea that viewers need to be able to understand everything a visualisation is trying to tell them right away. How soon we get there. For me.” 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 7 . it generally takes a month or so to set them up because you’ve got massive datasets that have to be formatted and organised properly and run through to make sure everything’s perfect.

Visual communication is frankly alien to some people in the insights industry. they also connected back in time with the first great wartime data visualiser – Florence Nightingale. Concerned – correctly. In doing so. NO VE M . Data visualisation can become part of the research process through smart hiring. data-rich clients are craving. A keen statistician since childhood. At Kantar we’ve put about 250 people through workshops with McCandless and it’s been a joy to observe people realise that not only do they get it. What we’re really talking about is. The data visualisation helps. So we need to think of data visualisation as an aid to creating compelling stories that move our clients to act. And this has huge implications for the way we recruit and train our people. a single visual could convey the essence of that argument in an instant. is with journalism. And of course that’s precisely the kind of clarity that time-poor. But we should be careful not to over-claim for this stuff. Data visualisation should not be regarded as an end in itself. They worry that visualisation risks trivialisation. I think. It’s not just turning data into pretty pictures. OCTOB ER N RY UA 8 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 R BE ER EMB DEC JANUA RY FE BR . they won’t find much of an audience. but they needn’t be. But if they don’t present that truth within a narrative that hooks the reader and imbues trust in their findings. Lamp-carrying activities aside. The whole truth The best analogy. It’s about seeing the patterns in the data that flush out a story and then help you to start telling that story. It’s about arriving at a point of view. of course – with the integrity of data. Journalists face the same challenge that we do of sifting large amounts of often conflicting data to arrive at a truth (or an insight. It’s all too easy to fall into the old cliché of “show rather than tell”.COMMENT Visual communication skills are alien to some in the research industry. in our case). And it’s no surprise either that many great examples of data visualisation come from the publishing and media sectors. “showing in order to tell it better”. They are now holding monthly virtual meetings and webinars to share their latest outputs and best practice. That is precisely the opportunity that data visualisation offers the insight and research business today. many researchers are suspicious of the introduction of right-brain thinking. through training. The real point to data visualisation – the value that it brings to research buyers and suppliers – is as an aid to storytelling. the industry will have to “swing to the right AU TEMBER SEP ST GU APRIL 185 5 MA Y 855 RCH 1 MA SEPT. OV DEC. but they are also perfectly capable of doing it. disease (light blue) and other causes (grey) from April 1854–March 1855 (right) and April 1855–March 1856 E JUN JULY through the clutter and shine a light on the insights that matter. Only by doing that can you move data off the spreadsheet and out into the real world of consumer behaviour and preferences. skills training and expert partnerships Embedding creativity Words Aziz Cami CNN took top honours in the Kantar-sponsored Information is Beautiful Awards earlier this year with its visualisation (on opposite page) connecting US casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq with the towns they came from back home. However. it seems certain that in terms of hiring policy. JAN. she recognised that while words could build an argument. to discover creative talents in both visualisation and storytelling that they had no idea they had. As data piles up around us in ever-growing quantities visualisation has been hailed as a way to cut Nightingale’s diagram shows war deaths by injury (red). FE B. But it doesn’t get you there. OCT. Nightingale’s Diagram of the Causes of Mortality (reproduced below) played a crucial role in her campaign to show that many more soldiers died of preventable disease than of their wounds. Such is the hunger to get involved with data visualisation that a group of our people have set up a global network of champions across all our companies. And yet it is perfectly possible to encourage people. It’s no surprise at all that Kantar’s data visualisation partner David McCandless was a journalist. and the one I use most frequently.

Eileen Campbell is global CEO of Millward Brown Part of the process Overall I think it’s a moot point whether we will deliver data visualisation outputs through in-house resources (as a couple of our companies do) or pursue partnerships with the agencies that specialise in the field (as many more of our companies do). rather than treating data visualisation as an add-on applied at the end of a project. which I suspect is often the case today. but it’ll be a lot less time than the 150-year gap between Florence Nightingale and CNN’s work on the human cost of war. We want to visually signal change and illustrate the value of global consistency by delivering a beautiful visual story everywhere in the world. When do I think this will happen? Hard to say. These packages can lend consistency and facilitate more clarity and engagement. Data visualisation is about more than just illustrating numeric concepts. so will opt for a more bespoke approach that addresses client needs more exactly. This requires investment of course. It’s a manifestation of the growing importance of design and artistry in brand building – both for our clients’ brands and for our own. There’s a democratising influence. Companies may have to adopt a much more agency-like approach to scheduling and time-budgeting. But I suspect most of the bigger research companies will want a look and feel in their outputs that is properly connected to their brand and product portfolios. By working with great design partners. This is clearly the dominant trend. accounting for a surprisingly high number of awards entries. 1. 3. The effective application of data visualisation brings with it some big issues around work process and planning. Money. It is a rare recruit who exhibits equally left. design and innovation agency The Partners 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 9 . Correctly pick which horses will finish first. Anyone who can deliver the desired fusion of numbers. That’s how I feel about data vis – if we can win on three counts. The Visualisation Trifecta Horse racing fans will know that the trifecta is the ultimate bet. we provide our teams with a learning experience and the opportunity to deliver work of which they can be proud.and right-brained traits. Interactivity opens new vistas of discovery in enabling clients and researchers to find the stories themselves and will bring with it huge benefits in terms of engagement and partnership. We want to use visuals to reinforce our brand. Aziz Cami is creative director of Kantar and before that co-founded brand strategy. The pace of development in data visualisation has been unrelenting. We want to inspire our employees and model better visual storytelling. We also take some of the cues from the visualisations as the backbone of our client communications. And they are helping to take data visualisation out of the creative ghetto. It’s only two years since Kantar partnered with McCandless and a year since we co-created the Information is Beautiful Awards. By creating a signature look and feel to our deliverables we remind our clients of our brand expertise. you have to understand it to commission it. especially in the area of interactive visualisations. This could bring with it an element of positive disruption. second and third and you are guaranteed exceptional returns. Ultimately we’ll enter the age of live. It’s symbolic of the change going on in our industry. The great challenge down the line is how data visualisation skills can be embedded throughout the research process. much like the early days of desktop publishing. words and visuals is going to find themselves in serious demand. But the automation of many outputs will by definition reduce the number of man-hours required so ROI should not be too hard to prove. 2.ly/TloHRZ (brain)” if it is to capitalise on the potential of data visualisation – and other creative tools.COMMENT CNN and Stamen’s Home & Away is an interactive web-based visualisation that plots US war deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and links them to a map of the US showing the towns the soldiers came from bit. may not be the only investment required. though. And the sheer number of datasets that many companies are now trying to integrate means that visualisation packages are more likely to be custom-built. The work needs to be worthy of the c-suite. we win big. active data visualisation brought to us through always-on feeds. But as with any other creative product. There’s a great deal of software now available – the so-called charting engines – which generate credible data visualisations that are certainly better than the average PowerPoint effort (see pages 14–15).

ly/N9Ab95 10 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 .com database. which shows the most covered artists of each year. bit.ly/so0hFw Michele Mauri won gold in the Information is Beautiful (IIB) Awards Infographic category for ‘Cover Mania’.GALLERY Michell Zappa won silver for ‘Envisioning emerging technology’. Each node is sized according to the importance of the technology it represents. based on the WhoSampled. bit. The bigger the outline. the larger the consumer impact.

bit.ly/NgG890 Paulo Estriga won bronze for his visual CV. The main image represents his two career stages to date. bit.ly/O3ukoF 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 11 . His work is based on opinion poll data measuring Danish attitudes to the Muslim headscarf in various public occupations.GALLERY Peter Orntoft won gold in the IIB Data Visualisation category. with each segment colour coded according to the type of experience.

His 2013 edition is now available. charting the phases of the moon for 2012. notabilia. Straight lines are controversial debates while curly lines are unanimous.net 12 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 .GALLERY Dimitre Lima won bronze in the IIB Data Visualisation category for his lunar calendar. dmtr. It’s a way of exploring the Articles for Deletion discussions among Wikipedia editors.org/lunarcalendar ‘Notabilia’ was IIB’s Interactive Visualisation winner.

It’s complex – print orders “come with instructions” – but there’s no denying its visual appeal.GALLERY Interactive bronze medal winner ‘The Evolution of the Web’ plots the various di erent browsers on a timeline.ly/UaQpT6 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 13 . bit. The colour bands represent the interaction between web technologies and browsers. evolutionofweb.appspot.com Omid Kashan’s ‘Timeline of the Universe’ won IIB’s Student Award.

It’s a superpowerful tool that takes some programming skills to get started. Java Applets are less than optimal for web publication. but a complementary open-source project – Processing. R does a lot more than graphics within its interpreted and commandline-controlled environment. visualdatatools. It’s client software (Windows only) that’s available for $999 and gives you a user-friendly way to create This image was created using Transversal Lines. However it is becoming a standard tool for any self-respecting data scientist. ‘What is the best tool to visualise data?’ It depends on the task at hand and what you want to achieve. DataMarket’s Hjalmar Gislason reviews what is available to help researchers nd the best solution for their needs There is no single correct answer to the question. Nothing we’ve tested comes close to DataGraph when creating crystal-clear. where it is possible to make nearperfect charts of most types – if you know what you’re doing. It enables all sorts of crunching and statistical computing.SOFTWARE REVIEW Practical applications There isn’t a one-size. The workflow and interface may take a while to get to grips with.org Simple one-o charts The most common tool for simple charting is Microsoft Excel. In fact. while some of the more advanced functionality may be less so. Processing is great for rapid development of custom data visualisation applications that can be run directly from the IDE. For the non-programmer who sees data visualisation as an important part of their job.com/DataGraph R is an open-source programming environment for statistical computing and graphics.com DataGraph is a little-known tool that deserves a lot more attention. But many Excel defaults are sub-optimal: some of the chart types they offer are simply for show and have no practical application. This is a far superior way to take Processing work online. So here’s an attempt to categorise those tasks and point to some of the tools I’ve found useful. A very different beast. DataGraph is a Mac-only application ($90 on the AppStore) originally designed to create proper charts for scientific publications. created in Tableau. The area where we have found that Processing really $50 million ‘Tale of 100 Entrepreneurs’. shows in ation adjusted revenue growth for 100 of the largest public software companies 14 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 . and some of the more advanced functionality may lie hidden even from an avid user.ts-all tool for data visualisation work. Tableau is fast becoming the number one tool for many data visualisation professionals. but a wide range of samples.js – has ported Processing to JavaScript using the Canvas element for rendering the visuals (Canvas is a way to render and control bitmap rendering in modern web browsers using JavaScript). Here are three alternatives. compiled into standalone applications or published as Java Applets for publishing on the web. r-project. Common charting in Tableau is straightforward. Processing is your tool. even with big datasets. 3D cone shaped “bars” anyone? And Excel makes no attempt at guiding a novice user to the best chart for what they want to achieve. Then again. beautiful charts that are also done right as far as most of the information visualisation literature is concerned. Tableau enables you to create elaborate interactive data applications that can be published online and work on all common browser types. Most outputs needs polishing in other software such as Adobe Illustrator to be ready for publication. Tableausoftware. well-crafted visualisations on top of data that can be imported from all of the most common file formats. aggressive development and an active user community make DataGraph a really interesting solution for professional charting. including tablets and mobile handsets. the graphics are a bit of a weak spot for R. Tableau is probably the tool to use. an interactive digital art project by Joao Martinho Mourha (jmartinho.net) built using Processing Videos and custom high-resolution graphics If you are creating data visualisation videos or highresolution data graphics. Processing is an open source integrated development environment (IDE) which uses a simplified version of Java as its programming language and is especially geared towards developing visual applications.

These show directed relationships among a group of entities gRaphaël is another JavaScript charting library built on top of Raphaël (see next column). so you will be leaving behind users of Internet Explorer versions 7 and 8. raphaeljs. days and months A wind rose for the South Shore Met Station in Oregon. Interestingly.org This polar clock was created using Raphaël. we chose Protovis as the base for building out DataMarket’s visualisation capabilities – with an eye on D3 as our future solution when modern browsers finally saturate the market. 7 and 8. and there are only two we feel comfortable recommending: Highcharts is a JavaScript charting library which renders vector-based. gRaphaël’s big brother.ly/czvYSB rendering.com 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 15 . Each frame may well require some serious crunching and take a long time to calculate before it is appended to a growing video file. Protovis allows the developer to specify how data should be encoded in marks – such as bars. dots and lines – to represent it. hours. We see that happening about two years from now. With plenty of examples. few chart types.com After thorough research of the available options. We believe we have tested most of the libraries out there. The second is that it will only work on browsers that support SVG. It is. See more examples at bit. or if you want to create a custom data visualisation for the web from scratch.org Special requirements and custom visualisations If you want full control of the look. The first one is that it makes rendering faster therefore animations and smooth transitions become more feasible. good documentation and active user forums. described as a generalisation of stacked area graphs where the baseline is free.github. In fact you’ll be surprised how soon you run into limitations that force you to compromise on design.com/protovis D3. created using Highcharts Raphaël. interactive charts in SVG (or VML for older versions of Internet Explorer). D3 binds the data directly to the DOM representation. It comes with a range of good-looking samples and decent documentation. Raphaël is open source. If you don’t understand what that means – don’t worry. But it has a couple of consequences that may or may not make D3 more attractive to your needs. but a couple of efforts have been made to enable VML A chord diagram. but the results can be stunning. It’s not a very mature library with limited capabilities. We don’t recommend Raphaël for the advanced charting part. g. minutes. making it an option for older versions of Internet Explorer that still account for a significant proportion of traffic on the web.com A Protovis streamgraph. It is a flexible and well-designed library that includes all the most common chart types with plenty of customisation and interactivity options. and any developer should be able to hit the ground running with it.raphaeljs. It comes with a video class called MovieMaker that allows you to compose videos frame-by-frame. Like HighCharts. mbostock. even fewer examples and pretty much non-existent documentation.SOFTWARE REVIEW shines as a data visualisation tool is in creating videos. available under proper open source licences and could serve as a basis for great things. the tool for you will probably be one of the following: Charts for the web There are dozens if not hundreds of programming libraries that allow you to add charts to your websites. Protovis natively uses SVG to render graphics. It is a powerful JavaScript library which works with vector graphics.com Protovis is an open source JavaScript visualisation toolkit. but for entirely custom data visualisations or small data apps it may very well be the right tool for the task. highcharts. Most of them are rubbish. The lines (from outside in) represent seconds. So if you want to take it up a notch and follow the lead of some of the wonderful and engaging data journalism happening at the likes of the New York Times and The Guardian. Processing. even though Highcharts is a commercial product the source code is available to developers who want to make their own modifications or additions. Rather than simply controlling at a low level the lines and areas that are to be drawn. Highcharts is a great choice for most development projects that need charting. however. building on many of the same concepts. This approach allows inheritance and scales that enable a developer to construct custom charts types and layouts which can easily take in new data without the need to write any additional code. feel and interactivity of your charts. d3js. falling back to VML for IE versions before 9. Hjalmar Gislason is the founder of DataMarket. It is free for non-commercial use and commercial licenses start at $80. gRaphaël renders SVG graphics on modern browsers. It renders SVG graphics for modern browsers and falls back to VML for Internet Explorer 6. the out-of-the box libraries mentioned previously will not suffice. produced in D3.js is in many ways the successor to Protovis. The main difference is that instead of having an intermediate representation that separates the rendering of the SVG (or HTML) from the programming interface. you don’t have to.

Betfair Data visualisations are a great way of driving marketing efforts. but if we get people in at the start of the tournament they are more likely to stay with us longer. particularly in the value proposition. We can then translate this into an illustration which is clear and simple. numeracy and the ability for a marketer to deal with huge amounts of data are vital. As our odds change. Ford and Absolut discuss how they use data visualisation to engage the public Words Joe Fernandez Alasdair Wright. They enjoy these real-time visualisations. identify and curate content that is going to be interesting and carry across multiple channels is quite useful. we use graphs to show the peaks and troughs of the day and explain all the significant happenings that are changing the value of a bet. which enable customers to get the best out of their relationship with Betfair. This is about bringing in the right customer who will be valuable for the long term. We’re not looking for one-off punters. because they are empowering them to be in control and understand when is the right time to have a flutter. These visualisations directly play into our USP – namely that Betfair is one of the few companies to allow gamblers to bet at odds set by other users rather than by the bookmaker.THE CLIENT VIEW Making eye contact with customers Internal data-sharing is one thing – but brands also have to communicate information to consumers. It also enables us to spot any detail that would otherwise go missing such as the hottest parts of the website including banners and offers with high degrees of traction. Betfair. The ability to sort 16 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 . In the bookmaker’s environment we are able to use complex event processing (CEP) technology to monitor and react to customer behaviour about major events on our website and on social media sites. As the internet and webbased content continue to grow at such a rapid pace. global head of customer marketing and loyalty. The ability to create. It works for us because it highlights our differences from our competitors. We are able to visualise this by using the CEP to analyse events (fixtures information and user events such as bet placement and funds withdrawal) to detect patterns and extract data from them.

for example. It’s more than a decorative element. All the words in the world wouldn’t have the same effect as an image that can be observed and understood. but a visualisation that reflects what Absolut wants to be known as to our target audience. Fuel e ciency. “Our challenge to designers is to take this pile of facts and nd a way to reinvent our look and feel. makes greater use of icons than the typical dashboard display.” says global marketing director Mark Hamilton Mark Hamilton. What we get is not only concepts that have attention-grabbing cut-out imagery. More leaves appear if individuals drive more economically. colourful and playful graphic designs and bold illustrations imprinted on the bottle. Complex graphs or fuel usage timelines were ignored in favour of iconographic alternatives: fuel gauges. It’s win-win when it’s done neatly and is supported by the best data scientists. it offers stakeholders an instant visual representation of your brand ethos. Ford A great example of our use of data visualisation is our latest prototype dashboard concept developed with the Smart Design agency. We are constantly gathering intelligence from our consumers and suppliers to identify the different things our brand stands for within different customer segments. User research discovered how some drivers get obsessed with achieving a ‘high score’ while driving – that is the lowest per-mile fuel usage. The Absolut Company There is something very compelling about data visualisation as a vehicle for helping take your brand beyond being just one of a number of options in a competitive marketplace. What we need to remember is that data in its purest form is dull and not altogether useful to the everyday person. global marketing director. When we commission such projects. global product development. We take the wealth of information coming from the vehicle and translate it for the user so that their drive becomes seamless. for instance. but it does have to have a distinguishing mark that makes people appreciate why they pay above average prices for our product. If a driver wastes gas by aggressively accelerating or slamming on the brakes. is crucial. group vice president. are represented by an image of a tank filled with an oil-like yellow liquid. the one small change you make that could have a massive effect on the bottom line. We brought together creative collaborators from a variety of disciplines and watched the journey from pure white canvas to exceptional pieces of art. Absolut Vodka’s bottle designs are interpretations of the data the company gathers about its customer segments. we are inspiring people throughout the world to collaborate and fill them with creativity. By taking account of data and giving the artists our bottles as a blank canvas. Our challenge to designers or digital Ford’s SmartGauge. The SmartGauge dash gives drivers a wealth of information in an enticing format without confusing or – worse – distracting them. It’s much more interesting than sales data or company reports would ever be. It’s a data visualisation tool intended to change the way people drive. By visualising things in a different way. this is the most important role that data visualisation must address. It doesn’t necessarily have to shout numbers or brand values. Raj Nair. Our approach has seen us challenge artists to showcase a different side to our brand. is represented as green leaves on a vine which wither when per-mile fuel use increases enthusiasts is to take this pile of facts and find a way to reinvent Absolut’s look and feel to strive to ensure that we continue to establish ourselves as a global brand icon.THE CLIENT VIEW through all that and find the one thing that is going to make the difference. by Smart Design. for instance. Done right. the brief is always to identify something that will make a consumer stop and consider what Absolut is all about and why it might be relevant to them. So fuel efficiency is represented by a rendering of curling vines blooming with green leaves. This is what all our stakeholders expect from us and offering them this instant visual read is what they want to see. 2012 DATA VISUALISATION 17 . we are helping drivers get the most out of their vehicles and we are simultaneously learning new behavioural trends that will impact the next product development cycle. though. the vine withers and leaves disappear. For me.

Keep in line “If you look at any well designed piece of work. then. leave it out.” 2. Top tips Our expert contributors offer rules to live by for researchers wanting to brush up on their data design skills That applies to text too “Some people forget that in a data visualisation. 4. you’ll be flailing around trying to make something work. 6. and let the story dictate the visuals. it’s always built on a good layout. Be consistent “Creativity is nothing without discipline. 18 DATA VISUALISATION 2012 .” warns Jarvis. 3. In a Businessweek article she wrote: “Data visualisation has nothing to do with pie charts and bar graphs… It’s a different way to look at and think about data.” 1.” says Ipsos Mori’s Ian Jarvis.” 5. If it doesn’t add to the story. data and technology skills needed to produce stunning data visualisations. You can’t do everything It’s rare to find one person with the design. Clever new visualisation styles might look nice. should be on building strong teams in each area and getting them to collaborate. says City University’s Jo Wood. there’s a world of difference between a fact-based presentation and a fact-filled one. according to Information is Beautiful’s David McCandless. “It makes such a difference to have things nicely lined up and well spaced out. well-known ones” – like pie charts or bar graphs – “will do a better job of conveying the story.” says TNS creative director Martin Lambie-Nairn. “Font size and style and colour clashes can destroy any good design you’ve got. says DataMarket’s Hjalmar Gislason. “If you skip on the early research stage and you move onto the design prematurely. editor of Brain Pickings.” says McCandless. 8. Know your audience Data visualisation means different things to different people. The focus. Less is more As Coca-Cola’s Stan Sthanunathan notes on page 6. But each of these skillsets are needed.” Design grids and guides are scaffolding – there to help build something beautiful rather than constrain creativity. Like Maria Popova. You will lose so much time doing that. 7. 20% design. Resist the temptation to cram as many elements as you can into your visualisation. What’s the story? The most effective visualisations know what story they want to tell. “but I’m going to bet that 90% of the time one of the existing.TOP TIPS Research still rules Data visualisation is 80% research.” So make sure your deliverables are aligned with expectations. the text itself is a graphical element. “That means it should be pared down to be as short as possible and optimised so that every word contributes to the overall meaning of the piece. Pick your colour palettes and your fonts and stick to them. to make the story surface.

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