Designing Data Visulisations by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky

dataVis.gifInsight­ful, sub­stant­ive and a must read for any­one work­ing with data visu­al­isa­tion as con­sumer or designer. Julie Steele andNoah Iliisky’s new volume — Design­ing Data Visu­al­isa­tions — from O’Reilly suc­ceeds in apply­ing a long over­due and well craf­ted taxo­nomic pro­cess to the art of Data Vis. Build­ing on their pre­vi­ous volume — Beau­ti­ful Visu­al­isa­tions — the authors take to the under­pin­nings of the pretty pic­tures and case stud­ies presen­ted in their edited volume. This shorter work would form a superb basis for an intro­duc­tion to Data Vis course.

The struc­ture starts with a smooth intro­duc­tion to the terms that under­lie visu­al­isa­tion break­ing them down into a lovely typo­logy bridging the dis­cus­sion between the explan­at­ory versus explor­at­ory uses and tech­niques. The next sec­tion takes the data vis prac­ti­tioner through the cre­at­ive pro­cess (set­ting goals, choos­ing the right visu­al­isa­tion and then build­ing the visu­al­isa­tion itself). This is not a hands on manual and the use of par­tic­u­lar tools is left to other spe­cific volumes, although a list o tools and resources is help­fully provided.

Although a con­cise volume, the wealth of use­ful inform­a­tion con­veyed as both hints ‘use text spar­ingly — don’t feel obliged top label every tick mark’ to a five page color the­ory intro­duc­tion provide hands-on and imme­di­ately usable nug­gets. The nug­gets are often basic — a demon­stra­tion of why mixed up lower case let­ters read easier than upper case let­ters — but as basic as they are they are great remind­ers that it’s all about con­vey­ing a mes­sage in the most effect­ive way pos­sible. Keep­ing things clear and con­cise and ensur­ing that the tech­no­logy doesn’t get in the way of the mes­sage. The con­clud­ing check­list of best prac­tices in data visu­al­isa­tion is a con­cise sum­mary of the mater­ial covered in the book.

I would highly recom­mend this book to any aca­demic researcher or digital human­it­ies scholar and com­mend it as a superb over­view of the prac­tice of data visualisation.

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