Why Your Big Data Needs to Be Beautiful

In Big Data, Customer Engagement, Data & Analytics, Featured on App by Kevin Kelly

datarep, http://www.flickr.com/photos/11732444@N00/3912023915/in/photolist-6XG9qc-6XGcBZ-6XGiKT-6XL1E1-6XL215-6XL2LW-6XL5cj-6XL7r9-6XL9hq-6XLbgo-6XLkss-74PsoA-7gkpw8-7gkpwF-7gkpxr-7gkpze-7gpjXY-7gpk1A-7jDdAx-7jJ4tn-7Zv9Gy-89gWZd-8SGr85-9NDjL9-9LHFRB-9LHFPn-8Niu4r-9LHFSc-9LLtS3-aHaPmR-deg1bQ-8NeHgF-cfRYoy-8uZAEZ-eqH2yL-epLLCM-7Zv9Md-7ZZD7e-7ZrYpv-aWPnvD-9a8e9c-7Zv9yA-dyW2nY-amdg2w-ay3sb3-8NmKR1-89gyjf-efr9pK-efr8Vn-efr8xX-8FPktC, data representation, data visualisation, big data, Big Data World, data insights, data strategy, data scientists

Data representation must be just as forward thinking as data analysis in order to make big data enticing and provocative for the viewer.

A fantastic New York Times article "Data-Driven Aesthetics" got me thinking about the possibilities of data and its representation. Mark Hansen argues that art and data can unite to craft a unique experience for the viewer—take for instance the "Shakespeare Machine" at the Public Theatre or Ben Rubin's "Listening Post" that displays words and phrases from the digital world. In these ways, the endless energy store of big data can be translated to beautiful and arresting works of art.

What makes them works of art is that they're immediately understandable. Big data is rarely given directly to the customer and instead, pushed through graphics, design, and artwork to make it consumable. Take for instance an infographic produced by Evzdrop regarding social media.

As data sets and their analyses diversify, their visualizations follow suit. Pie charts and cheap Microsoft Word graphs don't cut it anymore—yes, they display information but not interestingly. Remember that visualizations have changed with social media and marketers alike capitalizing on attractive and enticing big data that above all, is represented convincingly.

Artistic data representation can pique subconscious interpretations of your clients.

Certain colors can mean specific things: blue is trustworthy and cool while orange is fresh energy. Depending on the data set and its goals, it can be paired with a specific color (and hopefully many more images and narratives) to give your client the information succinctly but also provokingly. The right union between visual and data analytics can create dynamic marketing prospects for B2C and B2B businesses. Consumers and companies don't want to see simple bar graphs anymore—they want to see an aesthetic that reflects both branding and the opportunities that the data creates.

In these ways, the big data boom also heralds in a graphic design and artistic boom to represent that data. I would predict that as raw numbers gain foothold in marketing and business plans, artistic representations of such numbers will also proliferate. After all, what's better than dismal sales numbers with a beautiful aesthetic that suggests hope? Understanding this honors the subconscious of the viewer and creates a fluid aesthetic framework in which big data will thrive.

[PHOTO: Flikr Samuel Huron]