Why do we use graphs? Although there are several ways, it aims to make interpreting and comparing data easier. Leon advocates that design students must consider how data is interpreted instead of simply focusing on aesthetics and trends. For example, bubble charts are a trend however, they don’t always specific communicate data in the best way. The lecture displays a bubble chart of the market capitalisation of ‘Societe General’ and the visualisation is not clear and somewhat vague. When it is expressed in bar chart, the interpretation is far more accurate.

Our eyes are good at comparing a single dimension. For example, length. However, we are not sufficient in calculating more complex shapes like surface area (height x width).

Leon illustrates a square chart by David McCandles, called ‘the Billion Dollar O Gram’ found on Informationisbeautiful.net. It illustrates the amount of money lost in specific countries during the financial crisis.

Alberto Cairo’s precedents are used once again in this lecture and this example shows what sort of data visualisations tools allow for the viewer to interpret data more accurately or in generic ways.

The most common types of charts are:

  • Time series change (plots charted over time, commonly seen in the stock market)
  • Bar chart (makes comparisons between things, normally one dimensional)
  • Scatterplot (makes comparisons with multiple variables)

The lecture pod also discusses a case study of how a rocket launch blew up and how the significance of data visualisation affected this. Leon explains in the video how a graphic was shown between the rocket manufacturers and NASA but it not visually communicated effectively. After the accident, Edward Tufte, an American statistician, rearranged the data as a scatter plot and the data was more clear. It then showed that there is always damage below 65 degrees (Fahrenheit) which was the explanation behind the accident. Thus, it can be assumed that perhaps if the data was communicated through this technique prior to the launch, they may have prevented the accident.


Edward Tufte photograph 

Leon provides a further in depth explanation of data visualisation charts. They are:

Bar chart
Allows the observer to quickly compare information. It can reveal highs and lows at a glance. Leon also discusses how to make a bar chart more effective.


Bar chart, countries vs languages

Line chart
Line charts connect numerical data points. It helps to visualise a sequence of values. The primary use is to display trends over a period of time.

Pie chart
Pie charts should be used to show proportionate variables or percentages of information.


I’ve never been someone who was very good at math in high school and always had difficulty grasping the concepts of various charts and what they are used for. Leon breaks it down in simple terms where he provides a detailed explanation of what and how they are used whilst simultaneously using precedents to demonstrate the charts. While I have learnt the significance of data visualisation from the lectures and how they have assisted people in learning how to identify trends and patterns, I found the example of the rocket launch the most intriguing segment. I realise now how essential it is to visualise data in the most effective way possible so that people can use this as a tool to find solutions to problems.

References in APA

Bar chart, countries vs languages [Image] (2017). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from conceptdraw.com/a413c3/p1/preview/640/pict–horizontal-bar-graph-the-most-spoken-languages-of-the-world.png–diagram-flowchart-example

Edward Tufte photograph [Image] (2017). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/graphics/tufte_book.gif



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