Data Visualization Types: Charts & Graphs

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Visuals are significant to our interpretation of the world, and Data Visualization is a key process in that interpretation. In this lesson, we'll take a look at two components of Data Visualization, charts and graphs, and how they are used.

The Importance of Sight

We rely heavily on our eyesight. So it comes as no surprise that much of the information we digest daily comes in a visual form. Television commercials coax us to try or convince us to buy. Billboards show us logos and point the way. Magazines display advertisements of the latest gizmo or widget. There is no end. But if the visual media is so important, there must be an area that is constantly looking to simplify presentation, and improve meaning? Indeed, there is. The area is known as Data Visualization, and two of its vital tools are charts and graphs.

What is Data Visualization?

Data Visualization is a process that seeks to accelerate, and simplify, learning through our visual senses. Typical examples include charts, graphs, images, and movies. If you think about it, you can easily see why. Does the main page of a Weather application like the one from The Weather Network convey more information than a random set of values? You bet! Are the bright road signs and traffic lights useful in controlling vehicle movement? Yes, indeed! We are attuned to our vision. And as a result, we can quickly identify, and digest, the complexities of the information when presented in this fashion.

What is a Chart?

A Chart is visual representation tool, albeit text based, used in Data Visualization. It presents information in tabular form. Some common examples include the Eye Chart at your Optometrist's office, the list of rules at your local swimming pool, and the menu at your favorite restaurant. Each of these displays information in a tabular form, which can be quickly scanned, and understood.

What is a Graph?

A Graph is also a visual representation tool, used in Data Visualization. It presents information as a series of coordinates displayed on a multi-dimensional axis. Each value in a coordinate is related to the other(s) through some mathematical, or time based, relationship. Common examples include the candlestick graph used by stock brokers, the Income/Expense graph generated in applications like Microsoft Money, and the multi-colored patterns displayed on an ECG/EKG monitor.

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