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Data Visualization

This guide is meant to be a basic introduction to data visualization. Anyone is free to use it!

The Basics

Data visualization is a broad term that has been defined in similar but different ways. Basically, data visualization is the practice of visually depicting data in order to recognize patterns and trends in the information presented. Below I have listed some of my favorite definitions of data visualization. Click on the link to each source if you are interested in finding more information about how they define this topic.

What is an Infographic?

In the text, Infographics The Power of Visual Storytelling, Jason Lankow explains that,

"Simply put, an infographic uses visual cues to communicate information. They do not need to contain a certain amount of data, possess a certain complexity, or present a certain level of analysis. There is no threshold at which something 'becomes' an infographic" (Lankow,20). 

In other words...

Infographics come in various forms and can be hard to define with a solid definition. The easiest way to think about an infographic is by thinking of its characteristics. Infographics are usually artistic, illustrative representations of information. They are visually appealing and quickly relay information to the viewer. 


Infographic Example:


ORCID (26 April 2019) "ORCID Infographic 2019" this image is licensed under CC01.0

Online Resources for Creating Infographics:

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between an infographic and a data visualization because they have similar purposes and approaches to creating them. Below is a chart that is based off of the text, Data Visualization for Dummies. This chart is meant to provide you with criteria for analyzing if a graphic is a data visualization or an infographic. The chart also contains questions to ask yourself when considering each piece of criteria. 






Common, More General Types of Visualization:

(all definitions provided under this heading come from Merriam Webster)

  • Charts- "a sheet giving information in tabular form".
  • Tables- "A systematic arrangement of data usually in rows and columns for ready reference".
  • Graphs- "A diagram (such as a series of one or more points, lines, line segments, curves, or areas) that represents the variation of a variable in comparison with that of one or more variables".
  • Maps- "A representation usually on a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area".
  • Infographics- "A chart, diagram, or illustration (as in a book or magazine, or on a website) that uses graphic elements to present information in a visually striking way".

Specific Methods of Data Visualization                         

  •  Area Chart                                                               undefined
  • Bar Chart
  • Box and Whisker Plot 
  • Bubble Cloud
  • Bullet Graph
  • Cartogram
  • Dot Distribution Map
  • Gahtt Chart
  • Heat Map
  • Highlight Table
  • Histogram
  • Matrix
  • Treemap
  • Word Cloud
  • Radial Tree
  • Scatter Plot
  • Streamgraph
  • Timeline













"Box-and-whisker plots showing the basic information from the heat flow database for different continents and different domains (Continent vs. marine)" By Raymi Castilla 2018 is licensed under CC BY-SA-4.0.

"Geothermal Heat Map US" created by the US Federal Government and is in the Public Domain