What is Data Visualization?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Data analysis is a process that requires the reviewing of data to determine trends and abnormalities for a business. This is a daunting task because large data sets are typically presented in a spread sheet format. Data visualization is the process of converting standard textual data into pictures that are easily understood by a general audience. These pictures typically include graphs, shapes, and abstract objects that are color coded based on the significances of the data.

A good example of data visualization in practice is in an automobile navigation system. These systems are widely used today as an intuitive method of providing directions for drivers. This software provides graphical road maps that explain in detail, step-by-step directions. These road maps are easier to understand than written directions because they provide a visual map that represents the coordinates.

Many businesses use data visualization as a tool to provide the status on critical projects. This is often referred to as a corporate status dashboard. The dashboard provides vital statistics on goals, expenses, and overall stability of the company. Having a dashboard assists senior managers by quickly providing graphics that indicate issues within the company. These graphics can be presented in a red-light, green-light format, which makes them easy to comprehend.


The scientific community has been using data visualization techniques for many decades to solve complex problems. This is often found in weather programs and seismic activity monitoring systems. Providing complex data elements in a graphical picture makes it easier for humans to understand the relevance and relationships of data.

The daily weather report is another example of data visualization in practice. Most television weather reports present weather with graphical representations of rain, wind, and snow. These maps are layered with the images of the global jet stream and temperatures to present a full view of the weather. Without visualization, this information would be difficult to understand.

Online traffic reporting uses data visualization techniques to indicate traffic congestion in most cities. This report is typically presented with graphical automobiles and uses colors to indicate average speed. The normal color scheme for this information is green, yellow, and red. A user of the traffic reporting system can quickly identify congestion problems by looking for roadways highlighted in the color red.

An air traffic control system is another example of data visualization in practice. This system is designed to show air traffic and congestion problems in the sky. The system notifies users of impending issues by changing the colors of the graphical airplanes. When a plane is in trouble, the screen color changes to red. This provides an emergency warning to the air traffic controller.


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