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Learn Data Visualization

A Comprehensive Guide to Start Learning Data Visualization

Data visualization is an interdisciplinary field involving graphically depicting information or data. For hundreds of years, data visualization has been integral in helping people understand the insights in large datasets.

Data visualization is the process of translating data findings into a visual context like a map, graph, or chart, so that audience members can easily access the information. This in-demand skill allows audience members to quickly spot patterns, trends, or correlations that have been extracted from large datasets and to use this information to help fuel the organization’s decision-making process. If you’ve always wanted to learn data visualization but can’t figure out how to get started, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the various ways to learn data visualization, free resources to take advantage of, and the types of careers that commonly use data visualization.

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization uses graphics like plots, charts, or animations to represent data findings. These visual depictions communicate complicated data relationships in an accessible and engaging format and have a range of applications for sharing data-driven insights with an organization’s internal and external stakeholders. Because an estimated 65% of the population comprises visual learners, data visualization provides a way to quickly and effectively convey data findings. Even though data visualization takes many forms, it shares the common goal of communicating otherwise complex data insights in a memorable and understandable way, even for those who don’t come from a technical background.

Each day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are being created, which continues to grow exponentially. This increase in the amount of data has created a corresponding need for visualization practices to share the insights these numbers contain. Data visualization has a variety of uses across industries and professions. It has applications for describing trends or patterns hidden in data and communicating organizational structures or hierarchies. The data visualization process is typically broken into four purposes: to generate ideas, to illustrate concepts, to provide avenues into visual discovery, and to convey data in the form of visualizations.

Read more about what data visualization is and why you should learn it.

What Can You Do with Data Visualization?

Those with the skills to create engaging and effective data visualizations have the power to communicate detailed data insights and findings to audience members from all backgrounds. Data visualizations provide a concise and interactive way to depict data trends. Visualizations incorporate color and contrast to present information like sales patterns so that audience members can quickly observe information that may be difficult to see from a graph or spreadsheet. In addition, another benefit of working with data visualizations is that they can provide perspective on the data by placing it in the context of a larger story, which can help audience members understand the information as it relates to an organization’s overall goals or bottom line. Context plays an integral role in helping audiences understand the entirety of the data being depicted, which would be difficult to convey by listing numbers in a table.

Data visualization also provides a better understanding of a business’s operations. Running a business requires staying on top of many moving parts, and data visualizations provide a tool that can depict multifaceted operations and how different business activities connect. Moreover, analyzing and visualizing data provides insights into important business metrics that can lead to smoother daily operations and more successful project execution. For organizations that sell products or services to customers, data visualizations offer crucial insights into customers’ preferences, demographics, and shopping patterns. They provide a way for organizations to use customer-focused data to explore brand perception, customer sentiments, and even what customers post about the product or service on social media outlets. Businesses can then use these insights to tailor marketing strategies and brand outreach.

In addition to providing customer insights and depicting important trends in the data, visualizations also tell a story. Information is presented in an easy-to-understand format, and the audience is taken on a journey that leads to an inevitable, data-driven conclusion. Just like a written story, a visual story has a strong beginning, a basic plot, and an ending that looks into the future, providing recommendations for how to move forward. Instead of requiring tens of thousands of words to tell this story, data visualizations can do so with a series of well-placed infographics, carefully worded labels, and brief descriptions of the content, all of which tell the story of data in the larger context of an organization’s needs and goals. 

Careers that Use Data Visualization

Data visualization is used across many industries and professions where data is collected. A recent study found that the global data visualization market size, valued at $9 billion in 2021, is expected to expand to nearly $20 billion by 2028. This trend indicates the importance of effective data visualizations and the investment organizations are willing to make to access data-driven insights.

In the transportation sector, data visualization is a powerful tool to help with the task of routing transportation networks like freeways and public transportation. In healthcare, data visualization has a range of applications. It plays an integral role in helping to allocate healthcare professionals and apparatus based on geographical information to ensure patient needs are met. It also helps individuals stay informed about any updates to COVID-19 near them. When used in the public sector, data visualization is used to detect fraudulent activity and improve transparency.

For those who work in the environmental sector, geographic information system models and other data visualization tools aid with action schemes and risk-reduction strategies and also have applications for sustainable environmental ventures and public service initiatives. In addition, the retail industry relies heavily on data visualizations at both the regional and local levels to find ways to reduce operational costs, organize supply chains, and spot instances where costs and profit aren’t in alignment with one another.

Why Learn Data Visualization?

Learning to visualize data findings and present them in a way that’s accessible to different audience members is an in-demand skill across industries and professions. We live in an increasingly visual culture, and the human eye is naturally drawn to patterns and colors. Data visualization tools provide a way to engage audience members and communicate an important message at the same time. By seeing information depicted in colorful plots or charts, it’s easy to spout outliers and patterns, as well as to identify trends. This makes it possible for audience members to internalize data findings more easily.

Data visualization is considered to be a form of visual storytelling. It offers an interactive format in which professionals can easily share information, explore opportunities, and examine past patterns or relationships to make educated forecasts about what may transpire. Whether the data visualization is basic or complex, it helps audience members be on the same page regardless of their level of expertise or background working with big data. Because of how widespread data visualization is in every industry, it’s one of the most valuable skills you can have in your professional toolbelt. Those with the ability to tell compelling, engaging data-driven stories with their visualizations have the power to educate and even sway audience members with the insights they find.

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How to Learn Data Visualization

Learning data visualization is easier than ever, thanks to the variety of in-person and online learning options. For those who prefer studying in the traditional classroom environment, in-person data visualization classes are a great learning option. These classes give students access to an expert instructor who can answer questions and provide guidance on the spot. In addition, those who study in the in-person environment can take advantage of computer labs with the most up-to-date data analytics and visualization tools and software already installed. This engaging learning format also facilitates networking with other classmates, a benefit that extends beyond class meetings.

Live online data visualization classes are also offered for those who want to connect with an instructor in real time but don’t want to commute to and from campus for regularly scheduled meetings. Courses such as Excel for Business Fundamentals, Tableau Level 1, and Python for Automation are just a few courses currently available from top educational providers. Participants who choose live online study still receive expert instruction from an instructor in the live environment but have the added flexibility of completing all coursework remotely from the comfort of their home or office. 

If you’re interested in learning data visualization but cannot commit to regularly scheduled class meetings, another learning option is to select from various self-paced data visualization courses. Because content is pre-recorded, students can watch lessons and complete assignments at any time of the day from any location. In addition, asynchronous data visualization study also has the added perk of allowing learners to pause videos at any point, rewind, or rewatch as often as necessary, which facilitates note-taking and retention. 

Noble Desktop’s Get Started in Data Science is a free seminar that offers participants an overview of the field of data science. This recording includes instructions on Python programming, as well as why Python is becoming the language of data. All participants will also learn about the process of data science, the skills used by Data Scientists, and various real-world applications for these skills. Those interested in learning specifically about Tableau for data visualization may also wish to explore Noble’s Learn Tableau: Free Tableau Resources, which provides free content on using Tableau for data visualization and how to work with Tableau Public. Interested learners can also review the best data visualization classes near home to find local learning options.

Read the full guide on how to learn data visualization.

Free Introductory Data Visualization Course Online 

If you’re looking for an overview of data visualization rather than a time-intensive course, you can start learning to visualize data for free online. Noble Desktop offers a free data science webinar, which provides 80 minutes of instruction on the various applications of Python in the field of data science. Participants also receive a general overview of the field of data science, including the various skills required to be a Data Scientist and how to apply them to real-world data. This beginner-friendly video is a great first step for learners before they dive into a data science class or certificate program.

In addition to Noble’s free data science webinar, other top educational providers offer free beginner-friendly content on visualizing data. edX’s Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel prepares learners to perform data analysis using Excel features. Students also receive instructions on creating PivotTables. Those interested in learning how to create data visualizations with Microsoft Power BI can enroll in Udemy’s Data Visualization with Power BI, which teaches learners how to create reports to convey data findings. Coursera’s Data Visualization is another free learning option. Participants in this 15-hour class receive instruction on data mining and pattern-based data classification.

Read more about free data visualization videos and online tutorials

Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost 

If you want to learn to visualize data, you may wonder how hard it is to create visualizations that convey data findings. The good news is that you can easily learn how to make basic data visualizations with practice and instruction. A lot of work goes into creating a professional-grade data visualization that properly balances various design elements to convey data results effectively. Just like learning a new language, the skills involved with creating compelling data visualizations can require learning new terms and principles and applying them to real-world information. 

Before learning to visualize data, you may consider learning several related skills to make the learning process easier and faster. First, it’s essential to understand the basics of data, such as how it’s stored, how to retrieve it, and how it’s analyzed. The more you know about data analysis, the easier it will be to visualize the results of the analytics process. In addition, another skill that can help you learn to visualize data faster is an understanding of basic design concepts. Effective data visualizations will convey significant data findings without too much text or information that overpowers the visual components. Reviewing core design concepts, such as color, contrast, white space, and visual flow, are just a few core design concepts that can help you create your own data visualizations.

Because data visualization is a broad category, many tools, platforms, and applications are available to help you analyze and visualize data. One of the most effective tools for data visualization is Tableau. If you are interested in using this visual analytics platform, Tableau Creator is available for $70/user/month. This package includes Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, and one Creator license for either Tableau Cloud or Tableau Server. In addition, a free trial of Tableau is also offered for those still deciding whether Tableau is the best option for their data visualization needs. In addition, Tableau Public is a free platform that helps those working with data create and share their data visualizations online. Tableau Public boasts the largest repository of data visualizations in existence. 

Read about how difficult it is to learn data visualization

How Does Learning Data Visualization Compare to Other Fields?

The field of data visualization is closely related to data analytics and even overlaps with it in some ways. Generally, data visualization pertains to graphically representing data and information using maps, charts, graphs, and other visual formats. Data analytics is more involved with analyzing large datasets to extract meaningful information. In some ways, data analysis can be considered the first step in the data analytics process, with data visualization playing an important role post-data analysis. Whereas data analytics aims to collect and analyze data that can help an organization make more informed business decisions, data visualization strives to communicate data findings in a clear, easy-to-understand, and accessible way to a range of audience members. 

Those working in data analytics may seek training in programs such as Microsoft Excel and programming languages like Python, SQL, or R. These tools are essential for quickly organizing and analyzing data. On the other hand, individuals who focus more on visualizing data may still have training with Excel and various programming languages but also work with Tableau, Datawrapper, Infogram, or Google Charts to convey data analysis results visually. Data Analysts often perform data visualization as part of their job, meaning that these two skill sets can overlap and inform one another in various professional settings. For Data Analysts tasked with communicating data findings in Tableau or another application, additional training is sometimes required to master the visualization tool. 

How to Decide the Best Way to Learn Data Visualization

A variety of learning options are available in person and online for those interested in studying data visualization. If you’re new to working with data, you may wish to get a basic overview of data visualization by taking a free introductory-level class or exploring online tutorials and resources. One of the main benefits of this form of study is that it’s generally pre-recorded, which means students can access course materials and content at any time, from any location. Free online data visualization classes also afford the flexibility of allowing students to complete coursework around full-time work. 

In addition, free resources don’t require any financial commitment, which means you can get started learning data visualization without committing to an entire course of study, which can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. A great free resource for those interested in learning about data science is Noble Desktop’s Getting Started in Data Science, an 80-minute webinar that covers core data science concepts and tools, as well as their applications in the business world. 

For learners who may be interested in developing a solid working knowledge of data visualization to grow within a current career or to plug a skill gap, data visualization bootcamps can provide this instruction. Noble’s in-person or live online Tableau for Data Visualization Bootcamp is one such learning option. Those enrolled in this hands-on class receive expert instruction on fundamental data visualization practices and tools used in Tableau Public. Participants learn how to analyze, filter, and organize data and customize visualizations based on data findings. Because this course is taught in real-time, an instructor is available to answer questions and provide guidance. All students have the option of a free course retake for up to one year to revisit content.

Another excellent way of learning data visualization is to enroll in certificate study. Certificate programs provide comprehensive data visualization training to help individuals pursue a new career or pivot to an entirely different industry. These rigorous programs provide real-world training in a variety of data-related concepts. Noble’s in-person or live online Data Analytics Certificate is a project-based course in which students complete multiple real-world projects using predictive and prescriptive analytics. By course completion, those enrolled will have a solid understanding of collecting, wrangling, analyzing, and visualizing data. 

Learn Data Visualization with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

If you’re interested in studying data visualization, Noble Desktop offers several in-person and live online courses that provide hands-on training. For those who wish to work with Tableau for visualizing data, Noble’s Tableau for Data Visualization Bootcamp is an excellent option. Participants receive an overview of the field of data visualization and learn about Tableau Public’s visualization tools. By course completion, students will have a solid understanding of identifying which datasets to connect to and how to analyze, filter, and organize data to make customized, publishable visualizations. This course also offers the option of a free retake for those interested in revisiting Tableau concepts. 

Noble’s in-person or live online Data Analytics Certificate is another good learning option for those seeking a more intensive study option. This rigorous program provides expert instruction on various data analytics concepts and prepares learners to become Business Analysts or Data Analysts. By course completion, all participants will be familiar with core business intelligence, statistical analysis, data analysis, and data visualization concepts. This is a project-based course in which students will complete various real-world projects using prescriptive and predictive analytics. All students receive one-on-one mentoring as part of tuition.

In addition, other in-person and live online data visualization courses are also available from Noble Desktop. Those who wish to learn the tools to become Data Scientists may consider enrolling in Noble’s Data Science Certificate, which covers machine learning, automation, SQL, and Python. A Python for Data Science Bootcamp covers fundamental and complex Python programming concepts, such as creating programs and using statistics to make machine learning models. 

The Excel Bootcamp is also available, which teaches core spreadsheet functions like working with macros, formulas, and PivotTables. Finally, those interested in working with SQL to extract information from databases can enroll in Noble’s SQL Bootcamp. This course prepares learners to write queries, aggregate data, and filter results using Postgre SQL.

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