The Usual to the Visual: Data Visualization

‘A Picture tells a thousand words’: it is meant to convey that an image can say what a thousand words can…or can’t. It is an easier task to communicate through pictures than words. Why would that be so? The hemisphere lateralization theory states that the Left side of the brain deals with the verbal…the words; and the right side of the brain deals with the visual. Whereas seeing a picture or a text is associated with the sense of sight, the human brain can agglomerate the various ‘bits’ of information in a picture more cohesively than text, which is linearly accessed and processed.

Enter the world of business meetings, the ones dominated by the ultimate weapon of today’s professionals – a Power-point presentation, the .pptx thing. I purposefully use the name Power-Point ‘coz in this part of the world, the ‘Power-point’ is a generic. Students learn to throw the jargon around right from their student days. And for a working person, his word is worth only if it is loaded onto a ‘slide’.

But, as always, all things have to change. So much so, that in most cases, the newer, ‘modified’ or ‘innovated’ version was already manifested in the earlier one. And so emerged the need and the tools for presenting content in a less torturous and a more appealing as well as convincing way.

The idea ain’t new…civilizations centuries ago, depicted information through pictures, symbols, icons….anything visual. Thus, we are just re-visiting what we always knew and did. But we do have a new name for it – Infographics / data visualization, graphical data display. And, this time, it’s technology enabled, driven and delivered.

What is in it for the user? For one, it’s something new, so one can finally realize that there is a world beyond anything MS – . Secondly, there’s an entirely new environment comprising of motion, advanced animations, better enablers of customization of presentation to the kind of content, online creation – storage – presentation and visually appealing graphics to aid cognitive processing of information.

Prezi, emaze, piktochart, powtoon are just a few of the names doing the rounds. The result is some superbly visual, motion-enabled, savvy presentation of information that is supposed to not just leave one impressed, but also better informed.

And this might just be the beginning. People have waited for long and felt frustrated at not being able to express themselves and what they wanted to project; after-all…everyone doesn’t have the ‘gift of the gab’. Here’s where they shall feel liberated as they shall now communicate through images and visuals. An infographic CV can tell more of the person you are, and so can an infographic profile on a social network.

And companies can now convert their manual booklet into an infographic and ensure better service delivery and satisfaction.

Wouldn’t shareholders be pleased to be presented with an inforgraphic annual report, something which they can comprehend and make sense of?

Or, how about a picture depicting the satellites orbiting our planet?

The scope for infographics is endless. But one needs to be cautious, as perils are manifest in the benefits too. The task is not to display an audio-visual of scenic photos and fabricated backgrounds. The purpose, still, is to present data in a more convincing and simple manner. Infographics is to be the means, not the end.




I am Ravi Vaidya, a management educator by profession. This is where I intend to be myself, where I can ‘I’deate.


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