What is Data Visualization?

Explore the expansive and lucrative field of data visualization, a skill currently in high demand across all industries. Learn how to create engaging and effective data visuals that communicate detailed data insights and findings to audience members of various backgrounds.

Key Insights

  • Data visualization is an interdisciplinary field that involves graphically depicting complex information or data, making it easier for various audiences to understand.
  • Professionals skilled in data visualization can communicate detailed data insights, provide perspective on data by placing it in the context of a larger story, and aid in understanding of a business's operations.
  • Data visualization tools such as Tableau, Python, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Power BI are widely used for creating customized visualizations.
  • Data visualization is considered a form of visual storytelling, making it one of the most valuable skills across various industries.
  • The global data visualization market size, valued at $9 billion in 2021, is expected to expand to nearly $20 billion by 2028, indicating a growing demand for professionals skilled in this field.
  • Noble Desktop offers several in-person and live online courses that provide hands-on training in 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. Visualizing data is currently in high demand across industries that collect data, as it provides a way for various audience members to easily access information that may be complex or difficult to interpret simply by looking at numbers. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what data visualization is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it so you can determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.

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. 

How Do You Get Data Visualization Tools? How Much Do They Cost?

A variety of tools are available to help with visualizing data. Here’s a brief breakdown of several of the most popular tools, as well as where to get them and how much they cost:

  • Tableau is a tool for data analytics, data visualization, and business intelligence tasks. This popular software is widely used for creating customized visualizations that help audience members receive key data insights. Tableau Creator currently costs $70/month/user. A free trial is also offered. In addition, Tableau Public is also available. It can create and share data visualizations with others in the online Tableau community. 
  • Python is one of the most popular programming languages for data analytics and visualization tasks. This free language provides a variety of free libraries devoted to helping users create stunning and complex data visualization, such as Matplotlib, Plotly, Seaborn, and Ggplot. 
  • Microsoft Excel is an industry-standard spreadsheet application. Since its launch in 1985, Excel has remained extremely popular for analyzing and visualizing data. Those who wish to download Excel can choose from several plans, ranging in cost from $6/user/month for Microsoft 365 Basic to $22/user/month for Microsoft 365 Premium. A free Excel trial is also available. 
  • Microsoft Power BI is another helpful tool for analyzing and visualizing data and sharing data findings with others. This interactive collection of apps, connectors, and software services has a range of applications for business analytics. It can transform unrelated data sources into coherent insights. Various Power BI price plans are available, ranging from $9.99/user/month for Power BI Pro to $4,995/capacity/month for Power BI Premium.

What Are the Benefits of Learning Data Visualization?

Data Analytics Certificate: Live & Hands-on, In NYC or Online, 0% Financing, 1-on-1 Mentoring, Free Retake, Job Prep. Named a Top Bootcamp by Forbes, Fortune, & Time Out. Noble Desktop. Learn More.

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.

Read more about why you should learn data visualization.

Data Visualization Careers

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.

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.

A Brief History of Data Visualization

Although many consider data visualization a relatively modern invention, its origins extend much earlier. The history of data visualization dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years, likely for as long as the written word. Some believe the first visualizations took the form of sand drawings and rock sketches, such as those found in caves in Lascaux, France, which are estimated to date back about 40,000 years. Ancient peoples used tick marks on cave walls and tablets. Groups of tick marks that included a slash indicated a set of five, which helped simplify addition. 

From 1400-1532 C.E., the Inca worked with Khiphus, knotted string devices, to convey complicated mathematical concepts and narratives. This form of physical visualization was essential to help them communicate complex mathematical ideas. They remain difficult to code to this day due to their complexity. 

In 1786, William Playfair, a Scottish Engineer, invented area, bar, line, and pie charts, each of which he believed could better communicate data findings than a table. His publication of “The Commercial and Political Atlas” included various line and bar charts used to represent the imports, exports, and wages in different European countries. Nearly a century later, in 1869, Civil Engineer Charles Minard became well-known for his work in information graphics. Minard worked largely with thematic maps in which he depicted numerical data like population and language on geographic maps.

At the turn of the century, author and activist W.E.B. Du Bois used data visualization to illustrate the progress made by Black Americans following emancipation. Du Bois designed a sociological framework using data based on interview questions and census findings. However, it wasn’t until 1985 that the face of data visualization changed forever. With the advent of Microsoft Excel, people could work with large volumes of data in unaggregated forms, then create a visual representation of the data simply by clicking a button. This was a notable shift in the history of data visualization because it meant that this field was no longer restricted to Scientists, Statisticians, and Cartographers but could also be used by those working in the business sector. 

Comparable Fields

A field that’s very similar to (and even overlaps with) data visualization is data analytics. Whereas data visualization involves graphically representing information in the form of charts, graphs, and other visual formats, data analytics focuses more on the process of analyzing vast datasets to locate important trends or findings. Essentially, data analytics is an earlier step than data visualization, though it’s all part of the same data process. Although data analysis aims to gather and analyze data that has applications for helping a business or organization make better business decisions, data visualization seeks to communicate data findings in a clear and engaging manner so that those in the audience can understand the information being presented.

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.

Key Insights

  • Many excellent tools are available for those interested in visualizing data. Python has a variety of free libraries devoted to data visualization. In addition, applications such as Microsoft Excel and Power BI are popular visualization tools, as are Tableau and Tableau Public. 
  • The field of data visualization has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Early cave drawings depict rudimentary record-keeping and date back 40,000 years.
  • One field comparable to data visualization is data analytics. In some ways, these fields overlap and are used together to tell the larger story of data findings. 
  • You can receive comprehensive data visualization training through an in-person or live online course with Noble Desktop. 

How to Learn Data Visualization

Master data visualization with hands-on training. Data visualization

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