How to Transform Complex Data Into Understandable and Shareable Visuals

For both content marketers and business managers, effective data visualization is much more than creating a flashy graphic. CCO: What’s a real-life example of how good data visualization can be a transformative? Berinato: One that sticks out for me (and one that I’ve been studying) is Tesla, the car company. CCO: That’s a great business case for data visualization. So when you’re fighting for attention, whether in a Twitter feed or even in a presentation, visuals work. Visualization is a way of making sense of all the data, ideas, and information. In others it’s the design/creative content people. I think in marketing and in content businesses, it’s a person like myself — a subject-matter expert who’s interested in communicating visually — someone who wants to get data and design people together. Berinato: What I get excited about is making visualization more interactive in real time. This video shows you can tell a gripping, contemporary visual story with just three chart types, basic animation, and a simple narration.

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Scott Berinato is the senior editor of Harvard Business Review
and author of Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More
Persuasive Data Visualizations. Passionate about the transformative
power of data visualization inside organizations, Berinato shares
how he uses data visualization at HBR and why he thinks we are
living on the cusp of a visual data revolution.

Berinato’s book is a primer for non-experts to understand the
basic tenets of data visualization. For both content marketers and
business managers, effective data visualization is much more than
creating a flashy graphic.

Good charts, he explains, are a way of crystallizing complex
ideas into easily understandable and shareable visuals. His book
shares the neuroscience behind visual thinking, a planning
methodology for choosing appropriate charts and related
illustrations, and case studies of companies that use charts to
solve complex business problems.

CCO: What’s a real-life example of how good data visualization
can be a transformative?

Berinato: One that sticks out for me (and one that I’ve been
studying) is Tesla, the car company. They’ve integrated
visualization into their operations and way of working. Tesla cars
have so many sensors in them — they’re like rolling data
generators. What’s really impressive to me is Tesla is beginning to
see trends about how people actually drive versus how
Tesla suspects they drive.

A simple example: Tesla can see the air pressure in tires over
time. It can see when people refill, when pressure drops
dramatically, and when it rises. This information not only changes
how Tesla engineers its cars, but changes how it communicates with
customers about taking care of their cars.

To do that, Tesla needs to visualize data in a way that makes it
accessible, otherwise there would be too much data to make sense
of. Based on seeing how people behave with the cars, Tesla can
adapt everything from engineering to customer service and
marketing. Everything.

CCO: That’s a great business case for data visualization. Why
should publishers — whether traditional publishers or companies
with content marketing focus — use data visualization as part of
their storytelling efforts?

Berinato: The amount of information coming at us is insane. It’s
overwhelming. So visualization serves two purposes.

First, it serves a prosaic purpose. It gets people’s attention.
We can’t help this. It’s how the visual-processing system in our
heads works. Our eyes see pictures and want to go to those pictures
and make sense of them. So when you’re fighting for attention,
whether in a Twitter feed or even in a presentation, visuals work.
Visuals that offer information in a digestible way are
appreciated.

Second, it solves the problem of relaying complex information.
Consider something as simple as trying to understand the gun debate
in America. There are so many people saying so many things about
guns. Visualization is a way of making sense of all the data,
ideas, and information.

There are many industries that benefit from data visualization.
I talked with the electronic-health-records company, Athena Health.
It’s starting to see the power of visualization to help customers
understand complex personal health-care data.

CCO: Why is it so few do it well?

Berinato: My sense is companies have recognized it’s powerful
and valuable, but they think they can hire unicorns to figure it
out. By unicorns I mean people who have the design skills, the
data-wrangling skills,…

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