Data, Design, Meaning

Audience level:
March 9th 12:10 p.m. – 12:55 p.m.


The ultimate goal of data visualization is to tell a story and supply meaning. There are tools and science that can inform your choice of data to present and how best to present it. We reflexively evaluate data and fit it into a narrative which aids decisionmaking; learn how to take advantage of this tendency in order to deliver meaning, not just numbers and charts.


Data visualization is a hot field right now—and for good reason. In our age of info-saturation, true value is found in distilling large amounts of data into a form that is easy to comprehend and act upon. This talk provides an overview of tools and techniques which you can use to level up your data presentation, regardless of application.

As humans, we are adept at evaluating visual information. From an early age, we learn to make inferences about things based on their visual properties—large and small, near and far, motion, direction, and other attributes. Taking advantage of the visual process we’ve been practicing since birth is an easy way to optimize delivery of your data into the brains of your audience.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to appeal to the part of our brains responsible for figuring out whether we can successfully hit an animal with a rock. A great visualization must appeal to our sense of beauty. Structure, layout, typography, and color are all tools which can be used (and abused) to delight your audience and direct their attention where you want it to go.

Whether you’re building an information dashboard for a webapp or presenting scientific data, an understanding of these techniques will make your data more accessible to your audience, and more of a delight to read and learn from.