Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Is it art?

The MIT SENSEable City Lab has been visualising phone calls made during Obama's inauguration.

It's very pretty.

But what's it for? I've been wondering this about more and more data visualisations, which are impressive, but don't leave you knowing anything more than that the creator can make beautiful visualisations.

This one is on the margin.

It's beautiful and does communicate a simple message; Britain's skies are very, very busy. If you were just told that, then it would have a lot less impact, so the visualisation is useful as well as beautiful. We use charts for the same reason - either to communicate more information than you can cope with in a written description, or to make a greater impact.

Stunning data visualisation is seductive in our business, but in business it's going to have to work harder than this. An amazing graphic will work to impress a client once, before they realise that they can't acually do anything with it. Good for pitches, but not much else.

The really great business visualisations are ones like these - everything you need to know about a topic on one page. Now that's what we should be aiming for.

(original link)

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