Designing Great Visualizations


This paper traces the history of visual representation, from early cave drawings through the computer revolution and the launch of Tableau. We will discuss some of the pioneers in data research and show how their work helped to revolutionize visualization techniques. We will also examine the different styles of data visuals, discuss some of the barriers to making effective visuals and the methods we use to overcome those barriers. In the end, we will show the power (and limits) of human perception, and how we can use data to tell stories – much like those of the earliest cave drawings.

This paper reviews some simple lessons that can help us to tell effective stories including:

  • Trust is a key design issue
  • Visuals must be expressive and convey data accurately
  • Make Effective use of your visuals by exploiting human perception
  • The importance of context to help your audience to better understand your data view

Always strive to tell stories with your data and your visuals understand that good stories involve more than just data.

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About the authors

Dr. Jock Mackinlay, Director of Visual Analysis - Tableau Software

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