Data Visualization: Design vs. Dump

“It’s only in recent time that many business people have started to use data in a way that actually provides insights.”

Data visualization expert Dona Wong made this statement in a recent interview for the American Marketing Association’s “Marketing Insights” newsletter. I was struck by her observation that the use of data as means for communicating strategic trends was a relatively new phenomenon.

The idea that accurate, easily accessible data was critical to business operations was foremost in our minds when we designed Fonteva For Associations. Above all else we wanted to provide associations with a solution that gave them a 360-degree data view for their entire organizations as well as a user-friendly tool for creating reports and dashboards to present this data visually.

In her AMA interview, Wong went on to remark that “many charts today are made for decoration.” I tend to agree with her and have wondered if the tendency towards “decorative data” is symptomatic of the inflexible nature of the technology that some organizations continue to use. According to Wong, the essence of data visualization is “distilling a massive amount of data into a digestible amount of data and then presenting it visually.”

In some shape or form, this is the goal of the majority of the associations that use Fonteva For Associations. They want easily accessible data that can be shared with their members and boards in meaningful ways that move their strategic goals and objectives forward.

Even with great technology in place, it’s incumbent upon organizations to develop the design of their data as opposed to dumping it into meaningless charts. As Wong put it, “you have to know what story you’re trying to tell…You have to know your message.”