Research 2a – Types of Data Visualisation

Data Visualisation has become one of the most popular ways in which data can be visualised. An article A Tour Through the Visualization Zoo’ stated that “The goal of visualization is to aid our understanding of data by leveraging the human visual system’s highly-tuned ability to see patterns, spot trends, and identify outliers.” (Heer et al., d.u.) Data Visualisation isn’t just one type of visualisation. Within this category of visualisation there are many forms in which it can take, such as graphs either it being 2D or 3D to that of info-graphics to animations. All of these are sub genres within Data Visualisation. We thought it would be best to research into different types of data visualisation and see which type would best represent our data, as well as be simple and clear for people to understand.

Example 1 – Infographics/Motion Graphics

Infographics have vast become one of the most popular forms of data visualisation. An infographic is defined as “A representation of information in a graphic format, designed to make the data easily understandable at a glance.” (WhatIs, 2015)

The design of infographics allows the data to be easily read and understood by anybody that looks at them. Often, the designs of these are broken down into facts and images, and easily grab the audiences attention.

Social Infographic

Figure 1

The example above shows an info-graphic on the biggest social media sites. It provides the audience with both written facts, but graphs/images too. They also make the most important part of the fact the largest to it grabs the users attention. By using these techniques, this type of visualisation provides the audience with simple and modern views on data.

Many of the people that create these infographics, have turned to making them into motion graphics, which provide the audience with an extra element. The motion graphics are virtually the same thing, but instead of it being a static image, the motion graphic creates these into a short 1-3 minute video, with facts and images. Motion graphics tend to use music or voice overs to read the facts and sometimes use kinetic typography in order for the audience to follow along.

The video above shows one of the more popular motion graphics online known as the Did You Know?/Shift Happens (although we can’t find the original version). This example has taken world facts and created a short video/animation using images and music.

Infographics and motion graphics are new and interesting ways to communicate data to a wide target audience as they make the information they are putting across in an easy and uncomplicated way. There is a possibility that we might choose this type of visualisation for our data.

Example 2 – Graphs 

Graphs are the most common way to visualise data and have been around for many years. A graph usually represents data by plotting the data points on an ‘x’ and ‘y’ axis and usually in the form of line or bar graph. However, graphs can be used in different forms such as pictographs, pie charts, flow charts, cosmo-graphs and organisational graphs. Graphs are often used for scientific and mathematical data and are usually one of the more easier forms of visualisation to create.

Some examples:

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Graphs can be both in 2D and 3D. However, on most occasions the 3D element of a graph never usually means anything apart from adding an extra ‘element’ to it.

For the purpose of our data visualisation, it is unlikely that we will use graphs as there generally not that appealing to audiences and can sometimes be difficult to understand. In addition to this, it is not always easy to communicate your ideas through this particular data visualisation.

Example 3 – 2D Area

2D area graphs are basically what the seem. This type of visualisation “are usually geospatial – relate to the relative position of things on the Earth’s surface” (Ottinger, d.u.) What this means is that the graph relies upon particular areas regarding the world as a whole or a particular country.

Visualisations that fit into this category are that of Choropleths and Cartograms.  A Choropleth Map is used to visualise statistical data of a country(most visited websites) and then the areas within that country are then shaded or coloured to represent that data. A Cartogram distorts the image/map to convey the information of an alternative variable (population).

Examples of each:

Choropleth Map:

Figure 5

Figure 5

This cholopleth map shows the population of the USA per square mile by state. As you can see the lighter the blue, lower population, the darker the blue, higher population. These types of graphs are good at visualising data and is fairly easy for people to understand what is happening or what the map is trying to represent.


Figure 6

Figure 6

Cartograms are not always easy to understand. I can remember when I was shown one of these in a geography class and thinking “What the?” but once the concept was explained, it all made sense. What the example is showing is population per country. So the higher the population of the a country, the more distorted it becomes. In this case, India and China have the two biggest populations and therefore are more distorted. This type of visualisation is quite a unique way for data to be visualised, but it is very interesting way.

These ways of visualisation could be used for our idea as we could possibly use them to show the unemployment and job seekers allowance in different areas of Plymouth and see which areas get more distorted.


From looking at these different types of data visualisation, we will probably either go for something like a motion graphic or animation as these are more interesting and easier for the audience to understand. Or possibly create a choropleth map and possibly animate this.

We will make a post about what are final decision is on a blog post 🙂


– Heer, J., Bostock, M. and Ogievetsky, V. (Date unknown) A Tour Through the Visualization Zoo. [Online] Available from: [accessed 15 March 2015]

WhatIs. (2015) infographics. [Online] Available from: [accessed 15 March 2015]

– Figure 1 – Leverage. (2014) Social Media Comparison Infographic. [Online] Available from: [accessed 15 March 2015]

– Figure 2 – BBC. (2014) BBC Bitesize – Representing Data. [Online] Available from: [accessed 15 March 2015]

– Figure 3 – Wordwall. (2015) Bar Graph. [Online] Available from: [accessed 16 March 2015 ]

– Figure 4 – MontereyInstitute. (Date unknown) Graphing Data. [Online] Available from: [accessed 16 March 2015]

– Ottinger, O. (Date unknown) 15 Most Common Types of Data Visualisation. [Online] Available from: [accessed 17 March 2015]

– Figure 5 – Schoettler, K. (2010) Standardized Choropleth Maps. [Online] Available from: [accessed 17 March2015]

Figure 6 – WorldMapper. (Date unknown) Total Population. [Online] Available from: [accessed 18 March 2015]


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