It was great to hear Noah Iliinsky talk about how to apply a design process to data visualisation. He spent three hours with us, starting off with a short talk, and then guiding the audience through applying this design process to their data in a meaningful way.
Anyone whom I work with will know that I’m often asking “What problem are you trying to solve?“, and this of course applies as well to data visualisation as it does system or interaction design. So it’s no surprise that I find Noah’s work really engaging and inspiring. He talks about understanding your reader (the audience… the “user” – their drivers and needs); understanding your data (its characteristics and dimensions, and the message within that you wish to convey); understanding the choices that you can make as you apply a design process to visualisation, choosing how to convey knowledge and enable action.
Triangulating these gets you most of the way to good data visualisation.
Cut out & keep
As promised, here are a range of notes and resources to follow up on the great talk and workshop that Noah Iliinsky gave at the Genome Campus. I’m very grateful for him having taken the time to come up to Cambridge and share some of his expertise.
Thanks to Benedetta and Holly from the EBI, for helping me get things organised on the day and for arranging Noah’s travel and accommodation respectively.
Overview of Designing Effective Data Visualizations
What to visualise (audience, data dimensions, message/content) and how to visualise it (axes, position, appropriate encodings).
Download Noah’s visual design process notes (PDF)
Designing Data Visualizations – Lecture & Lab
Visual properties – which data encodings and when?
Open this image in another browser tab, print it out, stick next to your screen!
Visual notes from Noah’s talk and workshop
The sketchnotes I took during Noah’s session.
User experience design for data visualisation
There are all sorts of aspects of user experience design that I’m interested in applying in the data visualisation space, for example, exploring the use of personas to help keep a focus on the reader and using various brainstorming “tricks” to help find the most appropriate visualisation for a dataset. I’ll be following Noah’s lead here, given how much experience he has already built up!
As my colleague, Antony Quinn, pointed out, Noah’s process (unsurprisingly, I suppose) echoes the classic “double diamond” representation of the design process, where one has a vague “problem”, one goes through a exploratory process to better define that problem; then comes an iterative and exploratory design phase, ultimately homing in (hopefully!) on a solution.