What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is broadly defined as a method of encoding quantitative, relational, or spatial information into images. Classic examples include Charles Menard’s figurative map of Napoleon’s defeat and retreat during the Russian campaign of 1812, and John Snow’s dot map of cholera cases during the London epidemic of 1854.

Images: Menard’s figurative map (left) and Snow’s dot map (right), from Wikimedia

This free online introductory book focuses on selected topics in data visualization:

Charts and maps Despite the growing variety of visualization types, this book features chapters on creating charts and maps, and a wide range of ways to communicate with these classic models.

Reusable tools and templates: Unlike infographics created for one-time use, all of the tools and templates in this book are recyclable, and allow you to upload a new dataset to display your story.

Free and easy-to-learn: We have selected data visualization tools that are free to use (or work on a freemium model, where advanced features or higher usage requires payment), and searched for those that we believe are easy-to-learn, based on our teaching experience with undergraduate students and non-profit community organizations.

Interactive on the open web: Many books assume that you will deliver your data visualizations to in-person audiences on printed paper or presentation slides. But in this book, we show how to embed interactive charts and maps on your website, to share with the wider public.

Storytelling: Data visualization is more than pretty pictures. In this book, the best visualizations are those that tell your data story – and pull readers’ attention to what really matters – by combining images and text, and offering exploration with explanation.