The DataBoost Nexus #3

white flower in close up photography

The DataBoost Nexus #3

Data Visualization – What is it?

Over the last ten years, few terms have been bandied about the tech sector as often or with as much force as “data visualization.” Anyone presently researching business intelligence will no doubt come face to face with the term on a regular basis.

Understanding data visualization is an important step in comprehending the larger landscape of business intelligence, so we think it’s important to discuss not only what data visualization actually is, but also how it plugs into the greater framework of BI.


In 2009, Michael Friendly, a well-known contributor on the history of data visualization, defined it thus:

Information that has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information.”

Granted, this is an exceedingly academic definition, but the elements that explain what data visualization are all here. This is Friendly’s definition in plain English:

Information that has been transformed into graphs, pictures, or other easily readable forms.”

This definition is echoed on

Data visualization is a general term that describes any effort to help people understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context.”

And shares the most succinct definition so far:

Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format.”

An Example of Data Visualization

In short, data visualization is nothing more than the use of graphical representations of information that are more easily processed by the eye and the mind, allowing an individual or a group to more readily absorb and react to that information.

A simple example of data visualization would be the bar graph in Microsoft Excel. Anyone familiar with excel knows how easy it is to transform a string of raw sales numbers into a series of colored bars that allow a reader to instantly see an increase or decrease in sales over time. While today’s data visualization solutions are far more sophisticated than the Excel bar graph, the function is identical.

Now that you know what data visualization is, placing it squarely into the broader context of business intelligence is the next step. Join us next week to see what we mean.