What is Data Visualization?
last updated February 28, 2017
Data visualization is broadly defined as a method of encoding quantitative, relational, or spatial information into images. Classic examples include Charles Menard’s figurative map of Napoleon’s defeat and retreat during the Russian campaign of 1812, and John Snow’s dot map of cholera cases during the London epidemic of 1854.
This free online introductory book focuses on selected topics in data visualization:
Reusable tools and templates: Unlike infographics created for one-time use, all of the tools and templates in this book are recyclable, and allow you to upload a new dataset to display your story.
Free and easy-to-learn: We have selected data visualization tools that are free to use (or work on a freemium model, where advanced features or higher usage requires payment), and searched for those that we believe are easy-to-learn, based on our teaching experience with undergraduate students and non-profit community organizations.
Interactive on the open web: Many books assume that you will deliver your data visualizations to in-person audiences on printed paper or presentation slides. But in this book, we show how to embed interactive charts and maps on your website, to share with the wider public.
Storytelling: Data visualization is more than pretty pictures. In this book, the best visualizations are those that tell your data story – and pull readers’ attention to what really matters – by combining images and text, and offering exploration with explanation.
- Michael Friendly and Daniel J. Denis, “Milestones in the History of Thematic Cartography, Statistical Graphics, and Data Visualization,” 2001, http://www.datavis.ca/milestones/
- Isabel Meirelles, Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations (Rockport Publishers, 2013), http://isabelmeirelles.com/book-design-for-information/
- Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Graphics Press, 1983), and subsequent works at https://www.edwardtufte.com