Undergraduate Blog / Defining Your Babson

4 Key Takeaways for Data Visualization

Babson San Francisco recently had the pleasure of hosting an event by the Design Museum Foundation on Data Visualization. The night started off with a reception for design enthusiasts to network, followed by a panel discussion of experts in data visualization. For those interested in design and data, here are a few key takeaways from what these experts had to say about the profession:

Data properly visualized should be able to tell a clear story. This is where the profession is headed. At the current moment, a data visualizer is often needed in order to explain to others what different aspects of the data display mean. Data visualization and design is moving in the direction to reach a point where people will be able to look at the data and immediately make sense of what is going on.

Track what is useful. This is more relevant to data collection, but needless to say it also affects how data will end up being displayed. One of the panelists, Anna Kawar, talked about her experience with a client who kept a log and collected data on everything, hoping it would be useful. As a result, when it came time to synthesize the data, they were completely swamped and confused by it all.

Dashboards and data visualization are two distinct fields. Oftentimes dashboards are lumped together in the same category as data visualization but really they require different skill-sets. The panelists talked about the heavy emphasis on creating dashboards in the profession. All agreed that dashboards are not useful unless they are interactive and tied to the needs of people on the ground. When creating dashboards, it is important that the designer does not lose sight of what would be helpful to their audience and to keep things simple.

A good designer does what they’re asked to do; a great designer pushes their boundaries. Often times, the client may tell the designer exactly what they are looking for, the way they want it to be displayed, etc. However, as a designer, you are the expert in data visualization. While a designer should always keep their client’s needs in mind, they also need to be able to interpret what the client is actually asking for. By thinking of a better way for the data to be visualized, the client may either be blown away if it works or completely upset if it turns out to be a flop. It is a matter of playing things safe versus taking a risk once in a while and believing in your judgment.

You can find out more information about the Design Museum Foundation at: http://designmuseumfoundation.org/

By Sandy Ta, Semester in SF student

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