Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Data visualization...the beauty of simplicity

With the rise of creative data visualization, I've heard some commentary lately regarding the tendency of some of these creations to be high on the visuals but low on the data.  While intense data visuals may look amazing, they can give the impression that complex charts are the only effective ones.

While watching a TED talk this morning, I saw a chart that reminded me this is not so.  It was a talk by an ICU doctor, Peter Saul, and the charts showed the four ways people die.  Excuse the poor resolution, it's a screenshot of the video:
If it's tough to read, it essentially graphs function (of the patient as a whole) vs time.  The four ways he tracks are (clockwise from upper left):
  1. Sudden Death
  2. Terminal Illness
  3. Organ Failure
  4. Frailty
I thought these graphs were extremely effective at illustrating a (for most people) unfamiliar concept quickly.  

Definitely a "picture's worth a thousand words" type of graph.

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