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Fundamentals on the Grammar of Data Visualization

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Fundamentals on the Grammar of Data Visualization

Data visualization is the graphical representation of information and data. In the latest episode of Data Chats, our host Chris Richardson had a conversation with Lee Feinberg, president of DecisionViz, a management consulting company specializing in data literacy and data visualization.

They discuss the importance of data visualization in an organization and the fundamentals on the grammar of data visualization – a layered approach for visual data. 

 

 

Data visualization is not new; it’s been around for hundreds of years. As data software continues to evolve, it’s now able to process complex graphics and the rapid growth of data. 

With the mass volume of data available, organizations spend about 80% of the time getting the data ready, and only about 20% of the time is left to actually analyze the data. The goal for organizations looking to become more data-driven is to flip the percentages around, where you are spending 80% of the time analyzing the data and only 20% of the time preparing the data for stakeholders.

Numerous organizations don’t necessarily improve their database because they are under the impression it’s an aesthetic choice rather than a strategic business decision. 

Truth is, data visualization is more than just the workaround analytics. It’s truly about creating a data-driven organization, where team members who are doing the work around data, are not just utilizing their technical skills, but also their behavioral and interactional skills. 

 

“I think about this idea of creating a trustworthy army of decision-makers.” – Lee Feinberg

 

There are some key markers differentiating organizations that are spending the right amount of time analyzing data. You often hear people say you have to ask the right questions. But it’s not only about asking the right questions. It’s about teaching organizations to use data visualization appropriately for business leaders to make the right decisions. 

 

Leverage Your Data Visualization

 

To get your point across to the right audience, you’ll want to use different colors, positions and shapes, which is what Lee calls the grammar of visualization. The approach to grammar visualization should be as simple as possible. The more creative or fancy you try to be, the more cluttered things might look. 

Creating meaningful visualization early on in the project will save you time in the long run. Therefore, the first step before creating any type of chart is to keep in mind: intent before content. This is a key point because data really comes further down the path, you must first figure out what you want the people who are looking at the chart to interpret before creating visuals that might not tell the entirety of the story.  

You must figure out what you are trying to communicate with the audience. Once you know your goal, then you can figure out what chart you want to use. And once you know the chart you’re using, now you can begin to figure out what data you need. 

To showcase data, the stacked bar chart is one of the charts people use the most often. It shows people trends, the total performance and can also show a specific time period of the data presented. On the other hand, pie charts are usually not a good representation of the data you are presenting and can lead to confusion among the audience. 

Color is a big area in data visualization and can provide powerful insights. For instance, if you try to add color to the background, now you have to keep in mind the colors you’re using on your charts so they don’t interfere with each other. Being intentional with your data will help you avoid bad data visualization and reduce misunderstandings or confusion. 

 

Recommended Resources 

 

To learn how to transform passive chart titles into actionable questions, click here for your free copy of the eBook 21 Titles That Turn Your Tableau Charts Into Data Stories.

 

Resources to Keep Learning

 

Data Science for Business Leaders

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Business-Driven Data Analysis

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  • Pragmatic Institute is the transformational partner for today’s businesses, providing immediate impact through actionable and practical training for product, design and data teams. Our courses are taught by industry experts with decades of hands-on experience, and include a complete ecosystem of training, resources and community. This focus on dynamic instruction and continued learning has delivered impactful education to over 200,000 alumni worldwide over the last 30 years.

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