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One big data picture is worth a thousand words

In the Age of Big Data, there is so much data floating around at any given time that it is impossible to sift through and interpret it all manually. Because of the amount of data collected, a traditional electronic spreadsheet cannot visually represent the information due to data presentation limitations.

In The Beginning

If one relies on Excel reports to evaluate current customer trends, operating conditions, or business performance, disappointment will be the result. Excel simply does not provide much insight into why something happened. Because of the way the human brain processes information, it is faster for people to grasp the meaning of many data points when they are displayed in charts and graphs rather than pouring over piles of spreadsheets or reading pages and pages of reports. Data Visualization allows analysts and decision makers alike the ability to grasp information that is hiding in their data quickly.

Data Visualization: What It Is And Why Matters

Visualization allows your audience to see things that were not obvious to them before. Even when data volumes are extensive, graphical representations of data communicate patterns, trends, and outliers far more quickly than tables of numbers and text. With visualization, users can spot issues and problems needing attention at a glance and take appropriate action. In text-based reports and spreadsheets, the trends and issues remain hidden among dizzying arrays of numbers and text. Data visualization is prompting a cultural shift toward more analytical and data-driven decision making by empowering users to explore data that was previously not available in Excel.

Useful data visualizations are designed to complement human perception and our innate ability to see and respond to patterns.  We are wired as humans to perceive meaningful patterns, structure, and outliers in what we see.  This is critical to making smarter decisions and improving productivity – and it’s essential to the broader trend towards self-directed analysis and BI reporting. It’s also vital when tapping into new sources of data is required.

Useful data visualizations are designed to complement human perception and our innate ability to see and respond to patterns.

Luigi Cicciari

Characteristics All Excellent Data Visualization Should Have

The goal is to translate abstract information into visual representations that can be understood quickly, efficiently, and accurately. To accomplish this goal, the visualization should achieve the following:

  • Visual Simplicity: A significant component in reducing the time it takes to gain insight lies in the ability to create engaging and straightforward visuals – and not just for their visual appeal; when data is presented graphically, we retain and process more information quicker.
  • Simplification of Data: Getting data from various sources and combining it with a series of relevant and well planned KPIs will allow the data to display patterns, trends and anomalies more clearly.
  • Improved Collaboration: When everyone on a team is looking at the same data, the team can solve problems more efficiently.
  • Insight: Users can gain essential revelations about the company’s performance from an excellent interactive visualization.

To create the best possible visualization, it is helpful to think of it like story development. A good story brings data and facts to life. It can help you make sense and order out of a seemingly conflicting collection of events. Stories make it easier to remember key points and can paint a vivid picture of what the future can look like. Stories also allow people to insert themselves into the narrative and will enable them to relate to the situation. Anthony De Mello, S.J. describes this best when he said, “The shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.” While being detail-oriented, factual, and data-driven is critical, visualizations do not need to be tedious and lengthy. By presenting real stories in your data, you can get your audience to focus on your message.

The shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.

Anthony De Mello

Although data visualizations are easier to understand and look more attractive to the audience, it is crucial to achieving a perfect balance between visual appeal and functionality. Data visualization is used to aid the efficient consumption of the communicated information. A beautiful presentation that fails to emphasize relevant data or is not clear enough is of little value. For that reason, it is highly essential to make sure that the presented data is clear and understandable, and only then focus on aesthetically-appealing, attention-drawing design. It is just as imperative to support the communicated information with additional materials such as official statistic data, facts, and examples if you want the audience to accept your interpretation.


Big Data is a powerful discovery tool for companies seeking to gain new insights. But without the right framework for understanding it, much of that knowledge may go unrecognized. Often, it’s data visualization that allows Big Data to unleash its real impact.

Learn More About Data Visualization & Data Science Around Direct Response

Want to improve your direct response marketing game? Below are few links we recommend you start with:

WATCH VIDEO: David McCandless TED Talk: The beauty of data visualization
WATCH VIDEO: The Art of Data Visualization by PBS Digital Studios
Getting into data visualization — where should I start? – Medium
How Shipping Data Science Improves Profits on DRTV Campaigns

Luigi Cicciari

Client Operations Manager
DirectAvenue, Inc