It goes without saying that data is key to data visualisation. I mean, without the data, what have you got to visualize? It stands to reason that better data leads to a better graphic. Here at infogr8, that’s our motto: good data in = good graphic out.
That data isn’t always readily available, though, and some projects require hours of research to find the right information to present. The trick is to make sure that your data research is efficient. It can help to really know what you’re looking for, rather than just attacking the web with a wide scope on a general subject matter. Saying this, you always be on the lookout for those extra little tidbits of information that will draw people in.
The effectiveness of your research can be in a number of areas – not just what you’re looking for, but where you look, the way you look, and how long you look for. Clients’ budgets and deadlines are usually pretty tight, so you don’t want to be spending hours and hours running through hundreds of Google pages that are never going to have what you’re looking for. By all means, have a good look, but there’s no need to be chasing dead ends with time you haven’t got. This is why it is perhaps often better having a good idea in your mind of the stats and facts you want to find before you start looking.
In terms of how you look, there are scores of tricks and tips to make your research easier and more effective. The majority of people would start finding out about their topic via Google, which is all well and good, but even that can be optimized. Check out this infographic, originally made for students, about making the most of Google and its capabilities:
It is also worth noting that facts and stats are perhaps more readily available nowadays than they would have been a few years back. Take the world of sport, for example. Companies like Opta, Infostrada and others are now posting all day long, all over the world, via Twitter and other mediums. This is giving the average person a better understanding of data, what can be learnt from it, and how it can be relevant, both to them, and on a wider scale.
Back to your data research, though. When you’ve managed to find the data or information you need, it’s important to record or collate it as simply as possible, and in a manner that is easily accessible for whoever will use it. That can mean via Word, Excel, Google Docs, or a number of different formats, including modern analytical systems such as Tableau. The important thing to understand is that the easier your data is to use, the easier it will make the life of whoever will be designing it.
From what I’ve said, it would be wrong to think I am trying to say that one’s data research should be rushed. This certainly is not the case – it’s more that having some sort of idea of what you’re looking for before you begin can help you drastically in the long run.
Infographics are coming more and more into the mainstream now, with hundreds of thousands of new graphics posted across the web each day. Making yours stand out is going to be tough, but finding the right data can be your way of doing that.
To conclude, I’ll just say what I said earlier, as it’s the real key when tackling data research for visualisations – good data in = good graphic out.