What is Information Visualization?

Information visualization is the use of computer supported, interactive, visual representation of abstract data to amplify cognition.

Good visual data analysis can lead to better understanding and then to good decisions. This is key to good business intelligence where decisions should be based on evidence rather than intuition.

You need to be able to clearly see for example

  • Trends
  • Patterns
  • Gaps
  • Outliers
  • Correlations
  • Leads and Lags in time series data
Click here to see how trends, patterns and outliers are useful in time series analysis

Information visualization

From the above definition let us expand our undertanding

  • Computer supported - is displayed usually on a computer screen
  • Interactive - can be manipuated by filtering the data and drilling down through the data
  • Visual representations - the information is displayed in a visual form using attributes of length, location, shape, colour, and size to form a picture to allow us to see patterns, trends,and exceptions that otherwise would not be visible.
  • Abstract data - quantitative data in contrast to visual representations of physical objects
  • Amplify cognition - interacting with data displayed this way enhances our ability to think about information by assisting our memory and representating data so our brains can understand

Limits of Statistics

Statistics can reduce large complex data sets to a few numbers but this can mask subtle interpretations of what is really going on.

You also need to be highly trained to safely manipulate statistics but by using simple graphical representations to realise greater understanding.

Traditional BI Software Fails

Business intelligence tools have failed to deliver their promise of intelligence. They fail to recognise that it is humans that understand things and the output of BI tools should be so presented to maximise human understanding. You need to understand the principles of good visual data presentation so that you pick the right BI tool.

For more information on a product that supports the Principles discussed here.

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