The Art of Insight: How Great Visualization Designers Think
- Alberto Cairo
- Business & Economics > Business Communication - Meetings & Presentations
How Great Visualization Designers Think is a book about making design decisions in difficult situations. Decision-making is an essential skill for designers because anyone can create a data visualization with just a few clicks. Data is easily available online, and multiple free and easy-to-use software tools have appeared in the past few years. These developments have led to an explosion in the amount and variety of graphs, charts, and maps; we see them see everywhere, from news publications to social media. We believe this is a positive phenomenon, but only if the creators of those visualizations are able to think clearly and ethically about what they are doing. As the famous line from the 2002 Spider-Man movie says, with great power comes great responsibility
VIsualization books often focus on rules for creating charts and maps, but rarely explain the origin of those rules. Readers are told to start all graphs at a zero baseline, never use pie charts, maximize the data-ink ratio, and so on. We believe that this approach is misguided: it shoehorns designers into a single rigid mode of thinking, based only on the perspective of the book's author or authors.
Cairo and Flowers' approach in How Great Visualization Designers Think is different. We want to help every reader develop their own thinking and decision-making framework. First, they explore the questions a designer should ask when creating a visualization. Designers should know what they are visualizing and why that dataset needs to be visualized. Designers should also think about how to most effectively convey information based on who might be reading their graphics. Second, they illustrate how great visualization designers answer these questions by analyzing visualizations from designers all around the world. Our sample of cases and designers is the most diverse ever in any visualization book, drawing visualizations not only from the English-speaking world, but also from countries such as China, Korea, India, Egypt or Ukraine, and from designers with a wide diversity of backgrounds. These case analyses will reveal how individuals with great influence in the field and/or a substantial body of work think: what decisions they had to make and how they justify those decisions, how they shaped their data and visuals, how they styled their graphics, and how they structured their data narratives. You can see examples of case analyses at the end of this proposal.
We humans learn by copying and doing. We expect readers of How Great Visualization Designers Think to borrow ideas from these designers, be inspired by them, and apply what they learned from the book to their own work.
Cairo and Flowers want our readers to understand that their decisions should be based on clear thinking and reasoning based on facts--we'll describe empirical research, heuristics, and historical conventions, that can help any designer make better decisions. We also want our readers to understand that sometimes the rules of visualization can and should be broken.
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