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Data visualisation

Are you just getting started with data visualisation? This guide looks at what it is, introduces some techniques, tips & tools.

Data visualisation

Line graph example

What is data visualisation?

Data visualisation is where visual means are used to communicate data. This visual representation can take many forms. A simple bar graph, generated in Excel, is data visualisation. More complex forms can include 3D models and map overlays. Visualisations can incorporate interactive elements which allow users to manipulate the data in various ways or to bore down into the data, enabling it to be queried and/or analysed.1, 2, 3

Different tools can be used to create the visualisations. Some data analysis and programming languages include visualisation tools.

Useful terminology

Scientific visualisation

The visualisation of three dimensional data, in particular spatial data. It is used in areas such as architecture, meteorology, medicine and biology.

Information Visualisation

This type of visualisation includes data representation and interactivity in a pictorial format which enables abstract data to be better understood. 


The use of tools and techniques to graphically represent information and data. They are commonly used in journalism (data journalism), art and on the web. The web in particular has seen a huge growth in the use of infographics.

Big Data

Very large collections of structured or unstructured data which can be processed, analysed and stored. It can be produced by humans or machines. It has five traits - volume, velocity, variety, veracity and value. Traditional practices and solutions generally cannot be utilised with Big Data.4

Further information

Milestones in the History of Thematic Cartography, Statistical Graphics and Data Visualization

This "provides a graphic overview of the events in the history of data visualization"5 as an interactive timeline.

Data Visualization for Human Perception
From the "The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction".