The artistic part of data visualization is one of the most under appreciated parts of data science. On a day-to-day basis, we spend most of our time aggregating data sets, exploring their multidimensional depths, making and testing models, and visualizing the results. However, the visualizations produced by many data scientists are often lack luster and uninspiring. But we can do better.
Infographics , data visualized to yield revelations over observations, is one of simplest ways a data scientist can turn on the artisan within. Whitespace, darkspace, type fonts, graphics, colors, and textures are new concepts encountered in this new world. While seemingly complex and confusing, the good news about infographics is there are several great sources of information available to these looking to start this journey.
From a book perspective, one of the best texts on the market is: The Power of Infographics: Using Pictures to Communicate and Connect With Your Audiences. Mark Smiciklas covers everything from the business value to the creative process and into distribution. This is one of those books that tools like the iPad and Kindle were made for.
In addition to books, online courses are also available to those looking to build out new skills using tools like Adobe Illustrator. My two favorite online training sites are:
Of the two, I found the Lynda course taught by Mordy Golding the most useful. He identified five core characteristics of great designs that you will want to consider: Contrast, Hierarchy, Accuracy, Relevance, and Truth. The last being probably the most important in that Edward Tufte says, “style and esthetics can not rescue failed content. If the words aren’t truthful, the finest topography won’t turn lies into truth.” Without truth there can be no understand.
So, putting all this together and fingers to my keyboard, I produced this renewable energy infographic. It is based on the techniques discussed by Golding, data from various government agencies, and a bit number crunching. Not bad, can use some more artistic flare, but much better than just the tradition scientifically based graphics I am so used to producing.