Data visualization is a fascinating area. I also think it’s just begging for innovation.
Analytical types usually aren’t very good graphical artists (guilty). Their palette is defined by a few clunky buttons on Microsoft Excel’s ribbon, or, if they're really eccentric, Apple's Numbers.
I’d like to see more graphics experts work with number crunchers to find creative and accurate ways of displaying complex data.
Some of the most effective modern data visualizations I’ve seen make good use of scale and employ everyday objects. They make numbers relatable.
For example, this visualization of US debt does a great job of conveying the relative size of very large numbers.
The human mind doesn’t naturally resolve very large quantities (millions, billions, trillions,…) because it wasn’t very important from an evolutionary standpoint.
A hundred thousand years ago, it was important for the tribe to understand the difference between having one apple versus fifteen apples. Cavemen never dreamed their descendants would have to weigh one trillion versus fifteen trillion of something.
In a world with increasingly short attention spans and increasingly large numerical problems, we need people who can portray complexity in simple, easy-to-understand pictures.
It’s time for a renaissance of the cave drawer.