There is a saying today that data is the new oil, a hot commodity to be commercialized and traded. In the following TED Talk by data scientist David McCandless, an author of two books on data visualization, he states we should instead refer to data as the new soil.
His argument is that data is fertile and organic. It is irrigated through vast networks and tilled by thousands of interconnected sources. Data visualizations, McCandless says, are the flowers that grow from that soil:
“There’s something quite magic about visual information, it’s effortless, it literally pours in… it’s like coming across a clearing in the jungle.”
What becomes apparent in this talk is how powerful visual interpretations of data are in allowing viewers to interpret patterns that might not be otherwise apparent.
Suppose you are viewing a map that utilizes the GARB (Green, Amber, Red, Black) colour scheme to showcase which of your franchise locations are high performers. In an instant it becomes immediately apparent which stores or restaurants in different geographical areas are performing well over others, and you can infer the reasoning by combining that data set with others, such as traffic patterns and proximity to nearby competitors. You can even overlay weather data to see how climate affects your business.
These overlapping layers of data provide a picture that would otherwise not be apparent when considered on their own, and can be updated in real-time to provide a continual portrait of the competitive landscape. More importantly, real-time visualizations take raw data sets and transform them into an aesthetically pleasing, easy to understand format that gives administrators the ability to make informed decisions quickly and intelligently.
McCandless concludes his talk by stating that design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions. When data is visualized in a way that removes a lot of the guesswork and time required to make important decisions, that in itself is a beautiful thing.
Project X Ltd.