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Visual.ly: The Future of Data-Based Infographics

EAGEREYES – By Robert Kosara

Visual.ly‘s launch today made big waves, but a lot of people seemed to be disappointed by what they saw. The problem is that what you can see on the website is not the really exciting part of Visual.ly. What is much more interesting is how they want to turn the creation of data-based graphics from a tedious manual process into something fast and flexible. That has a lot more potential impact than you might realize at first.

Exploration, Analysis, Presentation

Let’s take a step back and look at the three stages we generally talk about in visualization: exploration, analysis, and presentation. Academic work and tools like Tableau focus on the first two, while there is still very little actual work on the latter. The usual assumption is that the same tools and techniques can be used there as for exploration and analysis, and little attention is typically paid to it.

The result is that presentation is taken over by infographics with varying levels of quality, because people simply get tired of looking at the same bar chart for every piece of data. I think it’s clear that infographics aren’t just popular, they are also more memorable, and when they’re done well, can be very effective.

The key difference between visualization and infographics is that the former is easy to automate and generic, while the latter are specific and usually hand-drawn. Now imagine a better way to create infographics based on data: a way that lets designers work with numbers more easily to create graphics that are visually exciting while still true to the data; a way that encourages and embodies best practices in visualization for designers. That’s Visual.ly. [Read more…]