Perhaps the most common line that data visualization agencies hear from new clients who have unsuccessfully tried visualization projects before is:

“They just didn’t understand our data.”

The root cause of such a statement is typically that those clients hired a graphic design agency without a data-focused team. Although the finished products may seem similar, data visualization is a very different process than graphic design. Therefore, a company choosing a data visualization partner needs to look for different qualities than what they would normally seek in a design firm.

The 3 critical elements to look for when choosing a data visualization partner are:

  • A data-focused planning team
  • Information designers instead of graphic designers
  • Access to enterprise-class business intelligence platforms

Data Visualization Partner Element #1: The Data-Focused Planning Team

In order to effectively plan a data visualization project, a chosen partner must be able to understand the implications and restrictions of the data being visualized. During the initial discovery phase, a good data visualization partner will utilize two key team members:

  • A business analyst – This team member is responsible for understanding what the data being visualized means to the business and how the visualization will impact it.
  • The information architect – This team member understands how the data can be organized to best meet the objectives of the visualization and will often have suggestions to identify the specific data needs of the intended demographic.

The purpose of the discovery phase is to determine:

  • The intent of the project
  • What data exists
  • The accuracy of the data
  • What the data represents
  • How the data can be disseminated in a clear, easily understood fashion
  • Technical and design requirements
  • Project timeline and budget

A data-focused planning team can gain an accurate and complete understanding of the scope of work and its purpose, which is an essential foundation for the project.

Data Visualization Partner Element #2: Information Designers instead of Graphic Designers

Once a data-focused planning team has finished preparing a project, it can be tempting to use a traditional graphic designer to complete the project. However, a graphic designer, while skillful and creative, is not necessarily an information designer.

An information designer is a specific subset of graphic designers who have an education and training in how to represent data visually. Many Universities and Colleges are acknowledging the unique skill set needed for this role and offering specific degrees for Information Design.  In addition to the design and creative skills of a graphic designer, an information designer will know what your data means – and that can eliminate a lot of challenges that come from having to educate a traditional graphic designer.

It is important to note that an information designer is not less creative or artistic than other graphic designers. Truly effective data visualizations show the data in creative and insightful ways while still representing the important story that the data tells. It’s the blend of data-awareness and creative skills that makes an information designer critical to the process.

Data Visualization Partner Element #3: Access to enterprise-class platforms

A data visualization partner should not be limited by their ability to work with data. As such, excellent partners will have access to enterprise-class platforms, like the ones offered by MicroStrategy, or in-house analysts and tools by which they can effectively interpret data brought to them by their clients. Without this, the firm is essentially locked into using the client’s system and resources, which can cause delays and other challenges in completing the final project.

Data visualization projects represent a significant benefit when executed properly, and that makes them too important to be trusted to just anyone.  By partnering with a data visualization team that is properly focused on the data first, employs information designers and has access to enterprise-class data platforms, clients will ensure the final result is tailored to their specific needs and accomplishes its intended purpose.

Boost Labs specializes in Data Visualization and User Interface Design to bring life to great ideas, whether they result in print, web, mobile, or other products. Contact us to find out how our team of data specialists can make your data visualization project a success.