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Entries in data visualization (13)

Wednesday
Nov232016

Better Presentations by Jon Schwabish: Interview & Giveaway

Better Presentations by Jon Schwabish: Interview & Giveaway

Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks is a great new book by Jon Schwabish from the newly redesigned PolicyViz! I'm especially excited about the chapter all about data visualization in presentations!

This December, I am giving away one signed copy of Better Presentations! Register on the Giveaways Page by December 31st to be entered.

 Whether you are a university professor, researcher at a think tank, graduate student, or analyst at a private firm, chances are that at some point you have presented your work in front of an audience. Most of us approach this task by converting a written document into slides, but the result is often a text-heavy presentation saddled with bullet points, stock images, and graphs too complex for an audience to decipher―much less understand. Presenting is fundamentally different from writing, and with only a little more time, a little more effort, and a little more planning, you can communicate your work with force and clarity.

Designed for presenters of scholarly or data-intensive content, Better Presentations details essential strategies for developing clear, sophisticated, and visually captivating presentations. Following three core principles―visualize, unify, and focus―Better Presentations describes how to visualize data effectively, find and use images appropriately, choose sensible fonts and colors, edit text for powerful delivery, and restructure a written argument for maximum engagement and persuasion. With a range of clear examples for what to do (and what not to do), the practical package offered in Better Presentations shares the best techniques to display work and the best tactics for winning over audiences. It pushes presenters past the frustration and intimidation of the process to more effective, memorable, and persuasive presentations.

Everyone should follow Jon Schwabish on Twitter (@jschwabish) and check out all the great resources on PolicyViz!

 

Jon answered a bunch of questions I sent him about visualizing data and the new book:

Who is the book intended for?

Jon Schwabish: I wrote the book for people who deliver data-rich content—researchers, scholars, analysts—anyone who works with data and who needs to present it to an audience. In my experience, many people who work with data and conduct research simply take their written reports and convert them to presentations—they copy their graphs and tables and paste them into a slide, and turn their text into bullet points. But there is a better way and it starts with recognizing that a written report and a presentation are two fundamentally different forms of communication. The goal of this book is to help presenters all the way through the process: From presentation construction and design, to building the presentation, to ultimately delivering the presentation.

What makes presenting so different from writing?

Jon Schwabish: The differences between writing and presenting are clearest when you think carefully about the audience. When your reader sits down with your paper, she has the opportunity to read the notes and footnotes, decipher the labels on your charts, even perhaps work through your equations. When you present, however, your audience does not have that opportunity: They are bound to your pace and content. If you fill your slides with text and bullet points, equations, and complex, detailed graphs, your audience will strain to follow you and understand your message.

There are also (or at least there should be) similarities between the two—at least when it comes to your preparation. We are all taught in grade school to set out an outline when we write a book report. Yet, we rarely do this when it comes to presentations. In the book, I propose that presenters develop their presentation before they start making slides. I walk through this outlining process and provide a worksheet that readers can use to help them outline and develop their presentation.

What should readers expect to learn and apply to their own presentations?

Jon Schwabish: The book takes you through the entire process of planning, designing, and delivering your presentation by following three guiding principles:

  • Visualize your content. We are better able to grasp and retain information through pictures than through just words, so visualize your content when you can; this includes text, statistics, and numbers whenever possible.
  • Unify the elements of your presentation. This means consistency in your use of colors and fonts, format of your slides, and integrating what you say with what you show.
  • Focus your audience’s attention where you want it at all times. Instead of putting up as much information as possible on every slide, keep your slides simple and free of clutter so that you can direct your audience’s attention. Here, I demonstrate a technique I call Layering—presenting each piece of information on its own. Together, the points come back to the original, but are now presented in more effective way for the audience. 

These three guidelines are applied to different slide elements such as text, images, and data visualizations. in the latter sections of the book, I talk about tools and technologies to create and deliver presentations.

What are the key mistakes people make in their presentations?

Jon Schwabish: I think many people view their presentation as a simple translation of their written report to slides, but again, a presentation is a fundamentally different form of communication than a report. Presenters need to put their audience first—think about how difficult it’s going to be for them to absorb your content and buy into your message as you zip through bullet after bullet, slide after slide, dense table after table.

The other big mistake people make is to not practice their presentation before they deliver it. You can practice your 15-minute conference presentation four times in an hour, which is probably four more times than anyone else at the conference. And it will show! The more you practice—actually, rehearse is probably a better term—the more familiar you will be with your content, which will reduce the need for text- and bullet-point heavy presentation. Practicing moves you away from the natural inclination to include lots of text on your slides. 

 Why is visualizing data and information in a presentation so important?

Jon Schwabish: There is a long research history that demonstrates we are more likely to grasp and retain information through pictures than just through words (typically known as the “Picture Superiority Effect”). By visualizing information, you make it easier for your audience to grasp your content and remember it. Visualizing data may be even more important in a presentation because, again, your audience is bound to your pace and how you present your data through graph choice, color, and layout.

There is a long chapter in the book on how to create effective data visualizations for presentations. I walk through basic data visualization principles and outline ways to effective communicate those data in a presentation. I demonstrate ways you can apply the Layering technique to graphs, by showing one data series at a time. But you don’t need to just Layer data—if you’re showing a more complex graph (or perhaps a graph type that is new for your audience), for example, you can start by just showing and defining the axes, and then sequentially add your data. In this way, you have defined the graphic space for the audience so they are prepared for what comes next.

What are your thoughts on animated slide transitions and/or clicking to reveal different pieces of information on a slide? 

Jon Schwabish: I’m generally not a big fan of animated slide transitions, especially the good ol’ Blinds and Checkerboard in PowerPoint and other tools. They tend to look cheesy and immature. That being said, I have found some of the “morphing” animations—Magic Move in Keynote and Morph in the newest versions of PowerPoint—to be quite useful. Say, for example, you want to walk your audience through an infographic. With these morphing animations, you can show the entire infographic and then seamlessly zoom in and scroll through the infographic on the screen. These sorts of techniques can be especially useful when you need to show the audience the full visual and then zoom in so they can see the details.

You also recently gave your presentation at a TED event. Can you share your experience?

Jon Schwabish: I spoke at the TEDxJNJ (Johnson & Johnson) event in Philadelphia. I was invited months earlier and even though I basically knew what I wanted to present right off the bat, it was a long haul to get the message just right and get the slides in great shape. I spent countless hours refining my message (especially the beginning and end), tweaking the slides, and practicing the talk.

When you’re invited to give a TEDx talk, you’re assigned a ‘coach’ who helps you develop your talk and design your visuals. We had weekly calls as I kept tweaking my message, content, and slides; I would send her audio recordings of my practice runs; and we would walk through slide design options. Just having someone who knew my content, my slides, and my struggles was invaluable. I typically try to rehearse my presentations in front of a live audience (and many of my co-workers at the Urban Institute sat in as I practiced the TEDx talk), but this experience really made me realize how valuable it is to have someone to help bounce ideas, concepts, and design off of.

Standing on that big red circle with the TEDx sign behind me was an incredible experience, and I’m thankful that people find my message value and of interest, and that I can communicate that to them in an engaging way.

Is there a website to go along with the book?

Jon Schwabish: Yes, my newly-redesigned website PolicyViz, has a whole section dedicated to the book (http://policyviz.com/better-presentations/).In that section of the site, you will find presentation, design, and data visualization resources including blogs, books, and tools. I’ve also included a section of Book Materials that you can download for your own use. In that section, I’ve included a Better Presentations Supplies Checklist that includes the technical things you may need when you go out and present. I’ve also included a Better Presentations Worksheet (the focus of Chapter 1), which will help guide your outline and organization. I’ve also included downloadable slides, icons, color palettes, and more.

Where’s the best place to follow you online?

Jon Schwabish: You can follow me on my newly-redesigned website, PolicyViz.com, which now hosts my blog, podcast, shop, and HelpMeViz project. I’m also active on the Urban Institute blog, Urban Wire, and have a researcher page there as well. I’m most active on Twitter, and you can easily find me there @jschwabish.

 

Jon's Bio

Jon Schwabish is an economist, writer, teacher, and creator of policy-relevant data visualizations. He is considered a leading voice for clarity and accessibility in how researchers communicate their findings. His new book Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks helps people improve the way they prepare, design, and deliver data-rich content. He is on Twitter @jschwabish

 

Thursday
Oct272016

9 Great DataViz & Infographics Tools with Education Discounts

Data visualization and data literacy are necessary life skills, and you should start developing them now! Whether you need to make a diagram for a Science project, a presentation for your History class, or a chart to solve that Math problem, you should start learning how to use data visualization tools while you’re in school. These tools are being used in classrooms from elementary school up through colleges and universities. While many online design tools offer free trials, these tools offer exclusive educational prices for students, teachers and educators to give them the means to more easily visualize information at a great price.

Here I share some of today’s most popular online data visualization and infographic tools, all offering educational prices. Because these are all online tools, they are all cross-platform, making them great for any computer a student may have; Windows, Mac or Linux. Follow the links to find the current education pricing deals!

I love that all of these online tools are helping to improve data literacy for students and educators all over the world! Which are you favorites? Any more online tools with education pricing plans for students and teachers that I missed?


Visme

Visme is an online tool used to visually present your ideas in the form of infographics, presentations, reports, and much more. Visme has a built-in charting tool gives you the power to easily transform your data into visual content and with their easy-to-use editor. Hundreds of fonts, millions of free images, and thousands of quality icons for use in your designs. Share your designs online with a direct link, post on social media, embed on a website, or download for offline use.

Contact for educational pricing: http://support.visme.co/

 

 

Infogram Education Pricing

Infogr.am

With Infogr.am, you have the power to make your data look its best. Users can easily create interactive charts and graphics that require zero coding. And to make sure your data is always up-to-date, you have the option to connect your chart to live sources like Google Sheets a Dropbox file, or a JSON feed. Educators can create a team account for an entire class.

Contact for educational pricing: https://infogr.am/education

 

 

Piktochart Education Pricing

Piktochart

Take your visual communication to the next level with Piktochart, an easy-to-use infographic maker. Create your charts by importing your data from a Microsoft Excel file or a Google spreadsheet. With a library of hundreds of professionally-designed templates, creating infographics, reports, posters, and presentations has never been easier. Educational pricing for individuals or whole classrooms.

Individual and classroom prices: https://piktochart.com/pricing/education/

 

 

Creately Education Pricing

Creately

With Creately, you can easily make beautiful diagrams in no time. Flow charts, mind maps, organization charts, Venn diagrams, Gantt charts, network diagrams and more. Thousands of ready-made subject-specific templates and over 40 types of diagrams with specialized shape sets are available to make sure your diagram looks its best. And real-time online collaboration allows you to work with fellow students.

Contact for educational pricing: http://creately.com/diagram-products#education

 

 

Venngage Education Pricing

Venngage

Venngage allows users to create infographics in just three easy steps: choose a template, add charts and visuals, and customize your design. In just minutes you can create a visual story in the form of posters, social media posts, and infographics. Post your final designs on social media, embed on websites, or download as an image or PDF file.

Register for a classroom Education account, includes 35 users: https://venngage.com/education-pricing/

 

 

Prezi Education Pricing

Prezi

Prezi is the tool for creating engaging and memorable presentations with the charting tool, editable images, and embedded videos. Give your presentations online or offline, using the library of templates as your starting point. Prezi presentations are built on an open canvas and spatial movement transitions that are unique and easy-to-use.  

Choose an educational pricing package: https://prezi.com/pricing/edu/

 

 

Lucidchart Education Pricing

Lucidchart

Lucidchart is an online diagramming tool for everyone. You  can create flow charts, Venn diagrams, mobile app mockups, network diagrams and more using the extensive shape libraries, or perform a Google image search right in the editor. You can even add a YouTube video to your diagram!

FREE accounts for students and teachers: https://www.lucidchart.com/pages/usecase/education

 

 

Easelly Education Pricing

Easel.ly

With over thousands of infographic templates to chose from, Easel.ly makes creating and sharing your visual ideas easy. The drag-and-drop interface helped Easel.ly win the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Award from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) in 2013. Create your infographic, and then publish online or download a high-resolution file for offline use. Check out their free ebook: How to Use Easel.ly in your Classroom (https://www.easel.ly/blog/infographicsforeducation)

Contact for educational pricing: https://www.easel.ly/contactus

 

 

Plotly Education Pricing

Plot.ly

Plot.ly is a higher-level, advanced data visualization platform that helps data science, engineering, and analytics students create create informative graphics using an open source visualization library and an online chart creation tool. With Plotly, users can easily import data, create charts, and share their findings by embedding them on a website, exporting them, or creating presentations and dashboards. Create technical visuals using tools and APIs for D3.js, Python, R, MATLAB, Excel and more.

Student pricing for Professional features: http://marketing.plot.ly/education.html

 

Article was reposted by The Huffington Post

Friday
Sep162016

Mapping the Disciplines of User Experience Design

Mapping the Disciplines of User Experience Design infographic

Mapping the Disciplines of User Experience Design is an uber-complex Venn Diagram. The original concept by Dan Saffer at KickerStudio was given a clean DataViz overhaul by Thomas Gläser who was with envis precisely at the time.

An infographic approach to visualize all players of the interactive field

. It shows the different areas and how they connect and overlap.

The diagram is based on the work of Dan Saffer

It's a couple years old, but all of the files were published on Github under Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-ShareAlike so anyone can Adpapt or Improve the design going froward.

You can see the original concept from Dan Shaffer here:

Found on FastCoDesign

Monday
Aug222016

Customizing 360 Photos - I Need Your Votes

Customizing 360 Photos for Digital Marketing

I NEED YOUR VOTES!

SxSW 2017 PanelPicker is open until September 2nd, and this is the community voting portion of the SxSW conference. This is a big part of getting accepted to speak at SxSW, and I need your votes to help support two proposals. My talks proposed for the 2017 conference relate to editing and publishing 360° photos with data visualizations and graphic elements for digital marketing. This is a new content format that can also take advantage of data visualizations and infographics!

Now that Facebook natively displays immersive 360° photos, you can use 360 photography to promote your product, service, and/or brand. However, just publishing raw images is already behind the curve. In this presentation I will teach you how to embrace this technology and harness its reach. You will learn how to inject your brand, call outs, data visualizations and graphic elements to make your 360 photos a full experience for your audience. This presentation will also cover how to optimize a 360 image file, adjust the metadata, demonstrate different editing tools, and help your brand take its marketing to the next level.

You'll need to sign in or create an account to vote. Here's the Login Page

Optimizing 360 Photos for Marketing Your Brand is my Solo talk proposal

Customizing 360 Photos for Digital Marketing is my Workshop proposal

You can help in three ways:

1. Click the links above and vote for my proposal.
2. Leave a positive comment about the talk or your experience with me.
3. Share this proposal on your social pages using the buttons from the SXSW website.

Below you can see a sample edited 360° image embedded here. This example image shows the potential for branding, callouts, data visualziations and other graphic elements that can be added before a company publishes a 360° photo. For example, the white square represents the original view when posted onto Facebook. 

Demonstration of adding graphics to Bedford Boys Ranch Pokemon GO Event 360 photo - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

You can also see the original 360° photo here, before any of the graphic elements were added.

Monday
Aug082016

23 Reasons to Get Excited About Data (Free eBook)

23 Reasons to Get Excited About Data IBM eBook

The team at IBM Watson Analytics has released a free, new eBook 23 Reasons to Get Excited About Data that explores the latest trends, practical applications and predictions about big data. I'm honored to have been included in the book as an expert on data visualization, along with all of the other IBM Watson Analytics applications!

These days, everyone’s tossing around the term “big data.” The term is nothing new – businesses have been collecting and analyzing data since the 1950s, before the two words were ever even uttered. Take a look back in time and you’re likely to see someone laboriously poring over a sheaf of spreadsheets, manually going through row after row to identify trends and gain insights.

More people are doing more things – personally and professionally – with data, and best practices will continue to develop. Self-serve, more democratized data analytics will Get Bigger, Get Faster and Get Cloudier!

I participated in an IBM video series about big data and visualization that you can see HERE. Data visualization is such an important conponent for humans to the analyze data, discover insights and communicate our findings to others! I'm very passionate about helping people understand how important data visualization truly is! Here are a couple of the thoughts I contributed to the ebook:

Humans are visual creatures. We can process visual information extremely fast, and are 6.5 times more likely to remember visual information than text. These are incredibly important facts when you are trying to communicate data to others. Use data visualizations to help your audience understand your information, and remember it later when it could influence their decisions or behavior. - Randy Krum

Data visualization is a language of context. You dramatically improve comprehension of your data when you design a visualization that puts your data into context for the audience. This can be a series of data points over time, or comparing your data to reference data to give the audience the perspective of how your data fits into a bigger picture. Storytelling with data is more than designing a chart, it’s the art of communicating specific insights from your data. - Randy Krum

Are you doing everything you could with your data? The future of data, along with predictive analytics and data visualization, is very exciting! Grab the free ebook now!

23 Reasons to Get Excited About Data IBM eBook Randy Krum Quote

Tuesday
May172016

Even Major News Outlets Get DataViz Wrong

 

Data visualization can be the most powerful, inspiring, and effective tool of a storyteller—as long as it’s accurate. However, a visualization can go horribly wrong if the designer uses the design tool incorrectly or gets the math wrong.

All too often, the underlying data is correct, but the visualization doesn’t accurately represent the corresponding values. Most of the time, it’s safe to chalk up the false visualization to an honest mistake by the designer, because it’s actually easier than you think.

Take a bubble chart, for example. A great visualization method, but it’s a common source of flawed dataviz. The reason is that design software only allows scaling or width and height adjustments to size shapes. So designers, upon reviewing the data, will sometimes mistakenly scale a circle's diameter instead of the circle’s area. This, in turn, produces radically incorrect sizes. The approach has logic to it (to some degree), but it’s inherently wrong. What should instead be done takes a bit of geometry and a spreadsheet.

“Just think about it: if you tell a software tool to scale something 200 percent, it will make it twice as tall and twice as wide. Therefore, you aren’t doubling the size of your original circle. You’re making it four time larger.”

- The Truthful Art, Alberto Cairo (@albertocairo)

For a real-world example of this problem, take a look at CNN’s recent “ISIS goes global: 90 attacks in 21 countries have killed nearly 1,400 people,” an insightful article, serious topic, credible source with inaccurate data visualizations. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bubble chart at fault. Assuming the data gathered by CNN is accurate, the maps included in the article don’t match the data and are way off.

CNN ISIS Goes Global Incident Map Bad DataViz

Take a close look and the size key. The circle size for five incidents is clearly shown as five times the diameter of the circle for only one incident, which creates a circle for “5 incidents” that is actually 25 TIMES LARGER, not five times larger. This drastically over emphasizes the locations on the map for the Middle East! I’ve designed the correct sizes so you can see what the bubble sizes should be.

CNN ISIS Circles DataViz Key Corrected

“It’s key for data visualization designers to understand that we visually compare the sizes of objects based on the their area (not their height). Numerical values are one-dimensional, but objects on a page or screen are two-dimensional. This is where designers need to remember to use the math learned from high-school geometry class. If you didn’t do well in geometry, it’s time to take another look.”

- Cool Infographics, Randy Krum (@rtkrum)

Bubble charts are in no way the only kind of dataviz that lends itself to mishaps. In print, broadcast, and online, you’ll see a variety of charts incorrectly showing the data — pie charts not adding up to 100%, logo sizes that don’t match the data, lines of icons with a different quantity than the data, etc.

Inaccurate dataviz certainly doesn’t always happen by accident either. Creating deceptive visual context is an unethical tactic employed by researchers, companies and publications alike, typically to promote a persuasive argument. Differences can be blown out of proportion or hidden by changing the axis scale or ignoring relevant data.

Once you start looking at data visualizations as a critical thinking reader, you’ll start notice many charts that don’t match the data. Always look to make sure the designer accurately represented the information before you take any data visualization at face value.

Thursday
May052016

Next Generation Interactive Scientific Poster

The Next Generation Scientific Poster project by The Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel, Germany takes scientific data visualization and designed a physical, interactive interface for audiences. As a result, they founded The Science Communication Lab as a spin-off from the academy so they could offer this expertise to researchers in the scientific community all over the world.

Check out this video demonstration on YouTube:

From their description:

The classical poster does often not offer enough space for the sheer complexity of the contents – texts, pictures, graphs and tables – used to convey scientific research today which causes inability to communicate contents and statements concisely. The classical poster also lacks an appropriate possibility for continuous updates which are necessary to include newer research results and would do justice to today‘s constant changes of information. 

The interactive poster is a a new method of presenting scientific topics in an attractive way, offering the user an easier access to the contents and a clearly improved possibility of comprehension. The illustrated topics are supposed to function self-explanatory and long-lasting which means that the viewer can decide on the depth and duration of the information process.

The interactive poster can be used for various purposes: For the internal demonstration of the research projects (poster sessions), on expert conferences and conventions in an international context. The newly developed technology -LED displays with a touch frame- can be used in a more reliable and long-lasting way than conventional projection technologies.

Thanks to Pieter Torrez from Scigrades for the link and his interview article with Professor Tom Duscher

Thursday
Apr282016

All 30,699 career shots by Kobe Bryant


The LA Times created a fantastic interactive data visualization of every shot taken by Kobe Bryant during his career. All 30,699 of them!

Kobe Bryant's 30,699th and final field goal came from 19 feet with 31 seconds left against the Utah Jazz. During his 20 years with the Lakers, he fired up more than 30,000 shots, including the regular season and playoffs.

Take a tour of key shots over his 20-year career, or explore the makes and misses over his long career on your own.

The data is sourced from stats.nba.com, and the visualization was build with leaflet and cartodb. The reader can hover over any specific dot to see the details of each shot. It's not obvious, but you can adjust the court image on the right to view the shots from the other end of the court. Color-coded for made and missed shots, you can also Tour the Data to see the most significant shots from his career, like his final shot:

Similar visualization style to the BallR visualization I posted about a few weeks ago.

For the serious fan, it's also available for purchase as a poster version for $59.95, which include more stats and visualizations from his career.

Found on FlowingData!

Monday
Apr182016

Experts Predict the Future of Data Analytics and Visualization

IBM Watson Analytics is a data discovery service that guides data exploration, automates predictive analytics and enables dashboard and data visualization creation. Through their Expert Series videos, Watson Analytics explores the future trends of data analytics. I had the pleasure of participating in this series, along with other prominent figures in the field.

Watch these interviews to learn about today’s trends in data visualization, data analysis, and which trends we think will have the most significant impact on the future of analytics.

 

What trends in data visualization are you seeing today and what are the opportunities for the future? (2:24)

Cathy Harrison (@VirtualMRX), Randy Krum (@rtkrum), William McKnight (@williammcknight), Tony Adams (@tonyadam)

 

Which trend do you think will have the most significant impact on the future of Analytics and why? (1:52) (1:44)

Deborah Berebichez (@debbiebere), Randy Krum (@rtkrum), Anil Batra (@AnilBatra), Valdis Krebs (@OrgNet), Christopher Penn (@cspenn)

 

What is your #1 tip for anyone who is asked to use data to inform business decisions? (2:22)

Deborah Berebichez (@debbiebere), Miles Austin (@milesaustin), Juntae DeLane (@JuntaeDeLane), Anil Batra (@AnilBatra), Tony Adams (@tonyadam)

 

What trends in data analysis are you seeing today, and what are the opportunities for the future? (2:19) (1:37)

Emilio Ferrara (@jabawack), Bob E. Hayes (@bobehayes), John D. Cook (@JohnDCook), Juntae DeLane (@JuntaeDeLane), Miles Austin (@milesaustin)

 

 

You can also subscribe and follow all of the IBM Watson Analytics videos on YouTube:

 

Friday
Apr152016

The Truthful Art by Alberto Cairo: Interview & Giveaway

The Truthful Art is the newest book by Alberto Cairo, and the second book of a longer, planned series. Following the huge acclaim and success of his last book, The Functional Art, Alberto expertly dives into getting data visualizations both accurate and designed for effective communication. 

This month I am giving away one signed copy of The Truthful Art! Register on the Giveaways Page by April 30th to be entered.

The Truthful Art explains:

• The role infographics and data visualization play in our world

• Basic principles of data and scientific reasoning that anyone can master

• How to become a better critical thinker

• Step-by-step processes that will help you evaluate any data visualization (including your own)

• How to create and use effective charts, graphs, and data maps to explain data to any audience

Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of Miami, where he teaches courses on infographics and data visualization. He is also director of the Visualization program of UM's Center for Computational Science, and Visualization Innovator in Residence at Univisión, besides being a consultant for several tech companies. He is the author of the books The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization (2012) and The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication (2016).

Everyone should follow Alberto Cairo on Twitter (@albertocairo)! He is one of the most vocal dataviz experts online, and shares his wisdom and insights openly. Also, you can download a sample of the new book with the first 40 pages of the book available on Google Drive.

I sent Alberto a handful of questions about The Truthful Art:

Who is the book intended for?

In the Epilogue I joke that I wrote 'The Truthful Art' for my past self, 8 or 10 years ago. As a journalist and designer, I didn't receive appropriate training in data reasoning in college, and that led me to make many mistakes in my career. The book is for communicators of any kind (journalists, graphic designers, marketing folks) who need to deal with data on a regular basis. It's certainly a book about data visualization and infographics, but it also covers the steps that come before you start designing anything: Getting your information as right as possible.

How do you define the difference between a visualization and an infographic?

In the book I explain that the boundary between these and other genres is very fuzzy. For me, an infographic is a combination of words and visuals (charts, maps, diagrams, illustrations) that makes a certain story understandable for people. The designer decides what data to show, and how to structure it, sometimes as a narrative or story. A data visualization doesn't necessarily tell a story, but it enables people to come up with their own conclusions, by letting them explore the information. Infographics emphasize explanation, data visualizations emphasize exploration.

What does in mean for a visualization to be truthful?

The whole book deals with this topic. In general, it requires a proper, honest, and thorough exploration of your information; asking people who know more than you do about it; and then a proper choice of visual forms to represent it.

Why are we more likely to accept visual information as truth?

It's not just visual information, it's any kind of information. We human beings aren't skeptical by nature. Our default is belief.

It is only when we become aware of the multiple ways our own brain, and other people, can trick us that we begin questioning what we see, read, hear, and feel. It is true, though, that recent research has shown that visualizations make messages more credible; this is something that can be used for good or for evil.

I don't know why many of us tend to take visualizations at face value, but it may have to do with the fact that most of us unconsciously associate charts and data maps with science. Those graphics look so precise, so crisp, so elegant! They must be accurate and truthful, right? --Well, perhaps not!

How difficult is it to choose the right chart style?

Not that difficult if you think about the message that you want to convey, or the tasks you want to enable, instead of relying just on your personal aesthetic preferences. I love maps, and I wrote an entire, long chapter about them for the book, but that doesn't mean that everything should be a map. A map may give you certain insights, but may also obscure others. In many cases, a chart may be better.

How can we become better skeptics and critical thinkers when we see data visualizations?

The key is to remember a maxim that I repeat in the book: A visualization is not something to be seen, but something to be read. Approach data visualizations and infographics not as beautiful illustrations (although beauty is a very important feature) to be looked at quickly, but as visual essays. Read them carefully, ask yourself if the designer is showing everything that needs to be shown. Remember that a single number or variable means very little on its own. In infographics, context is everything, and comparisons are paramount.

Is complexity the enemy of good data visualization design?

Far from it. Many designers believe that data visualizations and infographics are intended to “simplify” data. As my friend, the designer Nigel Holmes, has repeatedly said, infographics shouldn't simplify, but clarify. Clarification in some cases means reducing the amount of information you present, but in many others it requires you to increase it. In the book I show some examples of graphics that fail because their designers reduced the data so much that they rendered it meaningless. If a story is complex, its representation will necessarily be complex as well.

This said, it is good to be reminded of that old maxim commonly attributed to Einstein: Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. Over-complicated visualizations are also problematic. If your message is simple or trivial, why creating an extremely intricate graphic?

What’s available for readers on the book website: http://www.thefunctionalart.com/p/the-truthful-art-book.html?

For now, www.thefunctionalart.com contains my blog, contact information, information about both books, and some other resources. I have added software tutorials, and will soon post some of the data from the book. My professional website, http://www.albertocairo.com/, which will be launched soon, will contain more resources.

Are you speaking at any upcoming presentations or webinars?

Yes. I post most of my speaking engagements and consulting gigs here: http://www.thefunctionalart.com/p/speaking-schedule.html

Where’s the best place to follow you online?

My blog and Twitter. I use Twitter (@albertocairo) to take notes for myself, and save interesting resources, so if you want to see what I see or read what I read, that's the place to go!