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Information is beautiful

Information is beautiful

At the Design by Fire 2010 conference, David McCandless talked about his work on infographics. David is a journalist, programmer, designer, and a pretty funny guy that recently started working on information visualisation. His book of collected visualisations came out recently and his work can be followed on his website. It is his personal mission to help people quickly understand complex social issues and tackle information-overload. His personal view of data is that of “the new soil”: a fertile, creative medium for him to work in.

Insightful, fun, and… damned lies

It was inspiring to see how data visualisations could be fun and beautiful next to insightful. The power to create compelling arguments using visualisations of complex data entails great responsibility. As noted in the audience; ‘Remember…There are three kinds of lies: 'lies, damned lies, and statistics’. To counter this David shares all the data online that is the basis for his visualisations and updates his visualisations when errors are found or data changes.

His account of the creation process of a visualisation of the left political spectrum versus the right was interesting in this respect. He talked about how consciously trying to keep a balanced perspective tormented him. Looking at the rest of his work it is easy to see why this was a difficult visualisation. It reflects his progressive, left-wing inclination.

Web Traffic Map

We at UserIntelligence are also a firm believer in “data as the new soil”. Our experiments in visualising site traffic data led to our popular ‘Web Traffic Maps’. These have helped many of our clients easily understand the most relevant site traffic statistics, and how their site could be improved. It has become a helpful tool for many business decision makers.


Data should be empowering, not overwhelming. Visualisations, when done carefully, are a great tool to create insights out of complex data. You can watch a presentation by David McCandless if you are interested in his ideas like we are. Of course, if you are interested in how we can help you understand your web analytics data and turn them into gainful actions, please contact us!