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The Information Design Matrix

Data Talks, Episode 20

Dec 3, 2019

Nicole Hitner

Data Talks is Exago's podcast on all-things business intelligence, analytics, and application software. This month, we’re joined by Scott Berinato, Senior Editor at Harvard Business Review and author of both Good Charts (2016) and The Good Charts Workbook (2019). We broaden our understanding of data visualization to include other types of information design, learn best practices for making better charts, and discuss what our visualization tools might do to facilitate good design.

 

 

Timestamps 

Segment 1: The Information Design Matrix

(1:30) Scott’s role at HBR.

(2:22) Editing authors’ visualizations.

(4:00) Data visualization vs. information design

(7:11) The strange tale of how Scott got into charts.

(11:30) The Odds of Dying chart

(13:25) The information design matrix.

(19:30) The virtues of some lesser-used charts.

(23:10) Approaching different types of information design challenges.

(26:45) Form, function, and the utility of adornment.

(33.00) When less granular detail is better.

(38:00) The pros and cons of chart wizardry.

(41:10) Data viz tools and whether they should protect us from our own worst design choices.

 

Segment 2: What We Are Nerding Out About

(46:15) Scott: Twilight (this kind, not the vampire kind). Scott actually contributed those visualizations to Wikipedia after this podcast was recorded!

(49.20) Alex: Sou vide!

(51:30) Nicole: Freakonomics Radio, specifically this episode on the United States math curriculum and this episode on open offices!

 

Notable Quotes

“You know, I use the term data visualization because you sort-of have to...but I’m not entirely pleased with that term because it is so tactical and so descriptive of a process. [...] That’s like calling Moby Dick a word sequentialization or Starry Night by Van Gogh a pigment distribution.” (4:06)

“If I said to you there’s a 20% chance of something happening, and then I said to someone else there’s a 1-in-5 chance of something happening. The person who hears 1 in 5 actually thinks that’s a more likely thing to happen than the person who hears 20%, just because of the way the brain works.” (9:50)

“You can get most of what you need to get done with bar charts, line charts, and scatterplots. And there’s no need to go beyond that until you actually have those down.” (21:45)

“You’re not just visualizing data; you’re trying to communicate an idea.” (34:34)

 

Featured Guest

Scott BerinatoScott Berinato adds data visualizations to Wikipedia pages for fun and is Senior Editor at Harvard Business Review, where he helps other nerds better tell their data stories. He is the author of Good Charts (2016) and The Good Charts Workbook (2019). Berinato speaks frequently on the power and necessity of good data visualization, his most recent talk being his third consecutive year presenting on dataviz at SXSW in Austin, Texas. 

 

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