Lecture 1 – Introduction to Data Visualisation

Today, data visualisation is a mass medium. For graphic designers, data visualisation is an essential part of the communication process. We live in the most data-rich time, for example, according to a report by the School of Information Management and Systems (2003), 23 exabytes (23 billion gigabytes) of information was recorded and replicated in 2002, now we record and transfer that much every 7 days.

What is data?
Data are values of qualitative and quantitative variables belonging to a set of items, typically, it is the result of measurements and can be visualised using graphs and images. The terms data, information and knowledge are used to overlap concepts. The main difference within these terms is the level of abstraction being considered. Here is an example of this (data being the lowest level of abstraction).

Screenshot 2016-07-26 16.21.28.pngInformation Interaction Design: A Unified Field Theory of Design (2014).

What is data visualisation?
Simply, the visualisation of data. According to Friendly (2003), it is “information that has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information”.
It is one of the steps in analysing data and presenting it to users and its primary goal is to communicate information clearly and efficiently through statistics. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable. Further, viewers may have particular analytical tasks, such as making comparisons or understanding causality and the design principle (for example, showing comparisons) follows the task.
What is the difference between data visualisation and infographics?
Not all information visualisations are based on data, but all data visualisations are information visualisations. For example, infographics aren’t based on data but are based on a description of a process. In essence, majority are a list of images which visually displays a story and/or process, just like this one below.
(Wong, 2015).

The 4X4 Model for Winning Knowledge Content

Studies have shown that the majority of individuals who visit a website will leave it within 10 seconds. Further, it is typical that they will read only 20% of a page.
So, what is the solution to make people stay?
This is known to be the 4×4 Model for Knowledge Content and it consists of four key models and four critical components of those models. It is believed by following this format, your knowledge content had the ability to better engage your audience.
What are these models?

Screenshot 2016-07-27 10.03.45
(“The 4X4 Model for Winning Knowledge Content Online • Inspired Magazine”, 2011).

1. The Water Cooler: People gather around a water cooler to exchange in small
conversation as brief respite from work. This is direct and compelling and in the case of a website, can be thought as a headline, tweet or ad. They are used to engage the user and grab their attention to want more. ‘Upworthy’ is an example of a successful site to engage with their intended audiences.
2. The Cafe: A cafe gives individuals an opportunity to delve into a subject at some length, but still isn’t deep study. This could be a blog post, one or two page article or a three minute video. Cafe content needs to be crafted to tell a compelling story – a story that is easy to relate to.
3. The Research Library: If you have had read an interesting stat (water cooler) and chatted with a colleague about it (cafe) and it interests you – you will go to the library and dig deep. The library backs up the information found from the water cooler and cafe content. It is more scholarly, long form content.
4. The Lab: This is when users can interact with data found in the research library. In this content, you open the vaults and give users access to the data. They can twist the knobs and make it more about them and their interests.

What are these components?
1. Visualisation: This is not just about data, but also concept and geographic visualisation.
2. Story-telling: If you can tell a story, you are able to convert the abstract into something people can relate to.
3. Interactivity: Means offering interactive experiences such as lab moments and/or images that can be zoomed for more detail and/or communities to engage in.
4. Share-ability: The power of water cooler moments is strongest when you think about sharing. It leads more traffic back to your site content.

The lecture was really informative in regards to what data visualisation is, why we need it, what data is and the difference between data visualisation and infographics. Through it I was able to understand that an infographics consist of lists which describe a process and/or story through images, whereas data visualisation focuses on results and numbers. It was helpful to focus on what data is alone through the levels of abstraction, data, information, knowledge and wisdom.
The 4×4 approach was really interesting to learn about. It was simple, easy to understand and definitely relatable. This is an approach I will remember to engage audiences by stepping them into the right level of content based on their needs and improving outcomes from that content.


Friendly, M. (2008). Milestones in the history of thematic cartography, statistical graphics and data visualization. Retrieved 26 July 2016, from http://www.math.yorku.ca/SCS/Gallery/milestone/milestone.pdf

Information Interaction Design: A Unified Field Theory of Design (2014). Retrieved 26 July 2016, from http://nathan.com/information-interaction-design-a-unified-field-theory-of-design/

Report by the School of Information Management and Systems, University of California, USA. (2003). Retrieved 26 July 2016, from http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/exescum.htm

The 4X4 Model for Winning Knowledge Content Online • Inspired Magazine. (2011). Inspired Magazine. Retrieved 27 July 2016, from http://inspiredm.com/winning-knowledge-content/

Waterson, S. (Speaker). 2016. Lecture Pod 01: Introduction to Data Visualisation: Infographics and Data Visualisation [Vimeo video]. Western Sydney University.

Wong, J. (2015). Flowchart: How Designers Work. Retrieved 26 July 2016, from http://designtaxi.com/news/371916/Flowchart-How-Designers-Work/?interstital_shown=1


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s