Alumni Happenings

Data Viz in the Biz

Written By: Daniel Koh

Data Visualization (also known as data viz) may be the hype of the century but it is not new craftsmanship. Before the post-renaissance in the 16th century, data visualization was seen entirely as an exercise of geolocation mapping, with land markings and routes connecting cities. Since then, data visualization has greatly advanced with time and demand. Notably, in the 1800s, Charles Joseph Minard, an established French civil engineer well-known for his contribution to the field of information graphics in civil engineering and statistics, created an amazing infographic about the Napolean war invading Russia. The intricate details and the flawless flow of events shown in the infographic below truly display the mastery of one who has achieved nothing but near perfection.

Figure 1 – Carte Figurative by Charles Joseph Minard in circa. 1860

Amongst all things old and new, it is imperative that infographics or data visualization communicate the intended information or message to the audience. In the past, it could be information that was coveted. Today, it is the story that the data visualizer aspires to paint that is highly sought after. And the value of this information can be priceless, as a good story helps managers to be more effective and efficient than their peers.

SUSS invited Gen Infiniti to host a webinar for alumni and students. The instructors brought us through effective storytelling and how it ties back to data visualization. In order for a story to be effective, there must be a plot, storyline, and business context. To put things in perspective, the team at Gen Infiniti illustrated a simple but impactful example. While the greater part of a story plot will be about overcoming the monster, defeating the evil that threatens us is the storyline, and finally, the SWOT analysis/competition/problem statement/risk would be the business context.

It truly takes quite a fair bit of creativity and imagination to picture and understand these three elements of storytelling. Nonetheless, this is essentially what a data visualizer ought to do to be effective in conveying the information to receivers. And on top of that, the data visualizer must KISS at all times – KISS referring to “keep it short and simple” – pun intended.

In every article I’ve written, I have always ended it with a conclusion. However, should this piece be data visualization driven by storytelling, you may have to scroll up to the first paragraph to find the conclusion. As the instructors of the webinar advised, every story should start with a conclusion.

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