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Change the data set, change your mindset: Why information is beautiful
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  dashboards business_intelligence cognos ibmsoftware
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In today's feature article, we take inspiration from a recent TED talk to return to the beauty and business value of a well-designed dashboard.
Surviving data overload is easier if you have a map or a picture. A visual graphic, presented in something like a dashboard, can give you a very fast construct of a situation or a trend or other piece of information.
It can help you see connections or patterns you might not notice otherwise – particularly useful when you have a large, complex data set or content that isn’t joined or connected.
Good visuals can convey meaning simply and powerfully: everything from traffic accidents and government spending to sales trends and the properties of chemical elements.
Data journalist David McCandless (seen above in his TED talk) talked recently about the beauty of data visualization. Some key points:
(Above: The significance of colors across cultures)
In his book The Visual Miscellaneum, he further outlines why this visual navigation is more important than ever: “[W]e’re all visual now. Every day, every hour, maybe even every minute, we’re looking and absorbing information via the web. We’re steeped in it. Maybe even lost in it. So perhaps what we need are well-designed, colorful and – hopefully – useful charts to help us navigate. A modern day map book.”
Good design makes sense
In The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, author Edward Tufte discusses the finer points of visual graphics. The idea with all good design, he writes, is to give the viewer “the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.”
In the end, it’s about using effective communication to reveal the truth. “Excellence in statistical graphics consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency.”
Visual graphics then can be maps to better understanding, or pictures that reveal patterns out of complexity. They can even be sexy. But they also have to be well designed.
In a recent post, FlowingData offered up 7 basic rules for making charts and graphs. They note that with the rise of visual data in everything from art to design to statistics, it’s important to keep some basic design principles in mind.
Among them: include your sources, consider your audience and check the data. “Data forms the foundation of charts and graphs. If your data is weak, your graph is weak, so make sure it makes sense.”
Why IBM Cognos dashboards?
Dashboards are often a business user’s first foray into business intelligence because they’re looking for something informative and easy to understand. This form of ubiquitous visibility helps people monitor and improve performance. It should be nice to look at too.
To some, a dashboard could mean a flashy, interactive technology that promotes high levels of user involvement. To others, it’s a static, at-a glance report or a drillable interface that makes it easy to derive additional insight.
Color, shading, symbols, graphics, charts and animated features all contribute to a dynamic visual experience.
IBM Cognos Business Intelligence offers a wide range of easy-to-use dashboard styles to meet the divergent needs of today’s businesses and their users – whether they’re designing or interpreting visual data.
But dashboards are only effective if users trust the information. Data consistency is crucial to the success of any dashboard solution.
IBM Cognos dashboards use the same services and a common business model so users share a complete and consistent view of data across the organization.
Well-designed dashboards and visual graphics are a boon to business. They allow individuals to see and quickly grasp information and trends, to understand and better support decisions.