Visuals make it easier to tell stories with data, so learning how to create powerful visualisations is a vital weapon in the Data Scientist's armoury. In this blog post I'm going to give you our pick of the best data visualisation books to help you get a great start.
Before that, though, we're going to take a brief look at what data visualisation is and why it's important, and I'll give you my top 3 tips.
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What is Data Visualisation?
There's no doubt about it that Big Data is a powerful discovery tool, but all too often when you analyse a lot of data, you end up with a lot of results - too many, in fact, to be able to hold them all in your head simultaneously.
Data visualisation is the representation of data or information in a visual format, such as a graph or chart, which allows us to use images to communicate relationships of the data.
Data visualisation is not only important to data scientists, statisticians and other data analysts, but it is becoming increasingly important in other areas, such as politics, media and data journalism.
Our pick of the 3 best data visualisation books will each help you to understand the principles of data visualisation and help you choose the right chart for the right data.
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Why is Data Visualisation Important?
Images are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text (although this is disputed), and are more easily committed to long-term memory. This makes the data easier for the human mind to understand and makes it easier to identify trends, patterns and outliers in large data sets.
You can do your own experiment with this. Give a presentation to your boss and colleagues, showing them lots of data and tables. Count how many of them are awake at the end.
Now, if you're still employed, give the same presentation using graphs, charts and infographics instead of the data.
I guarantee your audience will be happier after the second presentation - and they will be able to explain back to you the important bits of the information you just presented to them.
Good data visualisation is a skill that you need to learn about and practice, and each of the books on data visualisation below will be able to help you with that.
3 Essential Visualisation Books for Aspiring Data Scientists @chi2innovations #datascience #dataviz
Top 3 Data Visualisation Tips
To give you a good start on good data visualisation, here are my top 3 tips of essential data visualisation techniques you should know:
- 1Know Your Audience – Use Visuals to Grab Their Attention
- 2Graphs Don’t Lie, People Do – Choose The Chart Type Carefully
- 3Communicate Clearly – Context is Everything!
Data Viz - Know Your Audience
Make sure that your graphs and charts are inspiring and tailored to your audience.
If you're presenting to an audience of politicians, executives or the general public, you'll find that pie charts and simple bar charts are as deep as you need to go.
On the other hand, delivering to an audience of specialists that expect depth and rigour, you'll need to go the extra mile to impress. Don't forget the confidence intervals!
Data Viz - Choose Your Chart Type Carefully
Graphs don't lie. They don't know how to. All they do is present the data that you give them on the chart that you choose.
On the other hand, people do lie, whether intentionally or otherwise.
Choosing the right graph for the right data will help your audience understand the true story of the data, but choosing the wrong graph will often lead your audience to the wrong conclusion.
Data Viz - Context is Everything!
Graphs often show trends, and those trends represent the real world - which is constantly changing!
Make sure to explain your charts in sufficient depth for your audience to understand the trends that they see.
Label the graphs to indicate where and why things change.
Top 3: The Best Data Visualisation Books
In this post - the 7th in a series of 8 in which we bring you 21 Inspirational Books for All Aspiring Data Scientists, we highlight our top 3 picks of the best data visualisation books to introduce you to data visualisation and how it is being used in Data Science:
Each of these data visualisation books is highly entertaining and will teach you exactly which visualisations to use in any given circumstance to really maximise the potential in your data...
If you're not sure how to get started learning the essential skills of data visualisation, the 3 data viz books in this blog post will help you make your first steps.
If none of these data visualisation books take your fancy, there are lots more listed further down the page.
4.6 of 5 stars
Storytelling with Data
A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals
Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic
Don’t simply show your data – tell a story with it!
Storytelling with Data teaches you the fundamentals of data visualization and how to communicate effectively with data...
Don’t simply show your data – tell a story with it!
Storytelling with Data teaches you the fundamentals of data visualization and how to communicate effectively with data. You’ll discover the power of storytelling and the way to make data a pivotal point in your story. The lessons in this illuminative text are grounded in theory, but made accessible through numerous real-world examples – ready for immediate application to your next graph or presentation.
Storytelling is not an inherent skill, especially when it comes to data visualization, and the tools at our disposal don’t make it any easier. This book demonstrates how to go beyond conventional tools to reach the root of your data, and how to use your data to create an engaging, informative, compelling story.
Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
Together, the lessons in this book will help you turn your data into high impact visual stories that stick with your audience. Rid your world of ineffective graphs, one exploding 3D pie chart at a time. There is a story in your data – Storytelling with Data will give you the skills and power to tell it!
4.7 of 5 stars
The Truthful Art
Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication
In The Truthful Art, Cairo transforms elementary principles of data and scientific reasoning into tools that you can use in daily life to interpret data sets and extract stories from them...
No matter what your actual job title, you are – or soon will be – a data worker.
Every day, at work, home, and school, we are bombarded with vast amounts of free data collected and shared by everyone and everything from our co-workers to our calorie counters. In this highly anticipated follow-up to The Functional Art – Alberto Cairo’s foundational guide to understanding information graphics and visualization – the respected data visualization professor explains in clear terms how to work with data, discover the stories hidden within, and share those stories with the world in the form of charts, maps, and infographics. In The Truthful Art, Cairo transforms elementary principles of data and scientific reasoning into tools that you can use in daily life to interpret data sets and extract stories from them.
The Truthful Art explains:
Effective Data Visualization
The Right Chart for the Right Data
Stephanie D. H. Evergreen
Written by sought-after speaker, designer, and researcher Stephanie D. H. Evergreen, Effective Data Visualization shows readers how to create Excel charts and graphs that best communicate data findings...
Written by sought-after speaker, designer, and researcher Stephanie D. H. Evergreen, Effective Data Visualization shows readers how to create Excel charts and graphs that best communicate data findings.
This comprehensive how-to guide functions as a set of blueprints – supported by research and the author’s extensive experience with clients in industries all over the world – for conveying data in an impactful way.
Delivered in Evergreen’s humorous and approachable style, the book covers the spectrum of graph types available beyond the default options, how to determine which one most appropriately fits specific data stories, and easy steps for making the chosen graph in Excel.
6 More Books on Data Visualisation
The 3 data viz books above are our favourites, but they're not the only good data visualisation books - there are lots more.
Below are a few more data viz books for your bookshelf:
Another 6 of the Best Data Visualisation Books
Maybe our pick of the best data visualisation books didn't quite get you what you were looking for.
Not to worry - here are a few more books on data visualisation to get your juices flowing...
Even More Data Viz Books
By now you may have realised that there are loads of great data viz books out there.
Well, here are a few more books on data visualisation that we highly recommend:
Data Visualisation Courses
If books aren't really your thing and you prefer to learn by video course, we have a post dedicated to The Best Udemy Courses for Data Visualisation.
Check them out - you won't be disappointed!
The Best Data Visualisation Books - Summary
Data visualisation is an incredibly important skill for anyone that works with data to have.
Hopefully, the data viz books in this post will help you represent your data appropraitely and truthfully by using the right chart for the right data.
Are there any data visualisation books that I've missed out?
Leave a comment below and I'll add it to the post!