Noah Iliinsky – The Steps to Beautiful Visualizations

Sean Carmichael

March 9th, 2011

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Duration: 30m | 16 MB

Translating information and data into a useful visualization is challenging. When creating information visualizations, as with any design process, it’s imperative to keep your audience in mind. With quality visualizations, they can understand and analyze complex information.

Noah Iliinsky is the co-editor of Beautiful Visualizations. He examines complex data and the ways to effectively communicate it visually to audiences. In this podcast, Noah joins Jared Spool for a discussion about how to interpret information visually in a way that is most effective for users to process the information and be successful in their tasks.

Here’s an excerpt from the podcast.

“…As with any other design process, or writing process for that matter, it’s really a matter of understanding what it is that you are trying to communicate and understanding who your audience is, their whole context, and every user centered design sense of that. Their jargon and everything.

And using those to prioritize things like, what do we include in this visualization? How do we choose which data to include and more importantly which data to exclude? Because it’s very easy to get seduced into adding more knowledge simply because it’s available, even though that may not contribute to your final goal or the goals of your audience.

You pick data. You have to decide what it looks like on the page. You have to decide where it goes on the page. These are all topics I am going to talk about in the Masters Tour. It’s a design process, you can parameterize it, and you can actually make it like any number of other design processes where you step through particular phases. The goal at every phase, I think, is to understand that you are making design choices, and the best choices are intentional choices not arbitrary choices.

So the work that I have done has been all about teaching people how to understand that they are making choices. To give them some foundation to make the right choices in each of these design phases in terms of, what data do I include, how do I think about my users, and how do I decide placement on the page. All these sorts of things…”

Tune in to the podcast and hear Noah address these additional points.

  • Is seeing if your visualization is accomplishing your goal any different than form design and trying to get someone to sign up for something?
  • What are some examples of well-done visualizations?
  • What are some of the toolkits available?
  • Does the “newness” of some of these techniques make it difficult to know where to look for well-crafted examples?

Noah is also one of the Masters joining us for the 2011 Web App Masters Tour. We’re coming to Philadelphia in March, Seattle in May, and Minneapolis in June. For more details such as dates, pricing, and agenda, visit UIEtour.com.


UIE Web App Masters Tour:
Hear the Masters’ Insights on mobile design, data visualization, and design process.
Seattle · Minneapolis

Noah mentions the following books as great resources in the podcast:

Graph Design for the Eye in Mind by Stephen M. Kosslyn
Information Visualizations: Perception for Design by Colin Ware
Visual Thinking for Design by Colin Ware

Recorded: February, 2011
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