Lecture 6 – David McCandless: The beauty of data visualisation (TEDx talk)

According to data journalist and information designer, David McCandless, “data visualisation are like flowers blooming from mediums, when you look at it directly it is just numbers and disconnected facts, but if you start working with it or playing with it – interesting things can appear, and different patterns can be revealed” (2010).

McCandless described data visualisation as “the new soil” (2010) and is a fertile, creative medium.

Screenshot 2016-09-23 20.34.58.png
(McCandless, 2010)

He displayed this image as seen above and asked his audience, what rises twice a year, one in Easter and then two weeks before Christmas, has a mini peak every Monday and flattens out over the Summer?

Screenshot 2016-09-23 20.38.34.png
(McCandless, 2010)

McCandless (2010) and information guru, Lee Byron, searched 10,000 Facebook status updates for the phrase, ‘brake up’ and ‘broken up’ and here are the patterns found:

(McCandless, 2010)

McCandless didn’t study design but after many years of being exposed to the media, he believed to have instilled “a design literacy” (2010) in him. In addition, he believes many people today are blasted by information design and demand a visual aspect to all information. Further, McCandless (2010) believes what’s data visualisation is effortless and is literally poured into our senses and understanding.

Screenshot 2016-09-23 20.54.50.png
(McCandless, 2010)

The image above displays how much is poured into our senses while on the computer. As you can see, majority is visual and this is often an unconscious act (McCandless, 2010) . McCandless (2010) explains that the eye is exquisitely sensitive to patterns in variations, colour, shape and pattern, it is the language of the eye. Further, if you combine the language of the eye, with the language of the mind, which is words, numbers and concepts, you start speaking two different languages simultaneously, each enhancing the other (McCandless, 2010).

Screenshot 2016-09-23 21.10.49.png
(McCandless, 2010)

McCandless (2010) displayed an image of all the evidence regarding nutritional supplements. This diagram is called a balloon race, therefore the higher up the image, the more evidence there is for each supplement and the bubbles respond to popularity as far as Google hits. With this, you can engrave the evidence and create a ‘worth it’ line (as seen in the image above), and so the supplements above the line are worth investigating, while the supplements below the line are perhaps not worth investigating (McCandless, 2010).
This data visualisation took a huge amount of time and research, which according to McCandless, “visualising information like this is a form of knowledge compression. It’s about pulling an enormous amount of information into a small space but once it’s there, you can convert that data into an interactive app, and a viewer is able to search for specific heath issues, such as, supplements for heart health, as seen below.

Screenshot 2016-09-23 21.24.47.png
(McCandless, 2010)

McCandless ends the TED talk by stating that, “design is about solving problems and providing elegant, quick solutions to those problems” (2010).

I found this video really interesting. McCandless spoke about data visualisation as a beautiful art that helps clarify the understanding of individual’s everyday, even unknowningly. He proved that data visualisation can be used in various ways such as, for serious issues, for example, by displaying how much evidence is out there regarding nutritional supplements and for humourising issues for example, the peek ‘break up periods’ within a year discovered through Facebook updates. McCandless also expressed how an individual’s sight is the largest sense used when looking at a computer. In addition, the language of the eye and the mind each enhance one another to draw connections through variations in shapes, colour, words and concepts, which help us to reveal interesting patterns. Further, enhancing the value of data visualisation.


McCandless, D. (2010, August 23). The beauty of data visualization Retrieved 23 October 2016, from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization


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