Explorative Information Visualization

First assignment- Gampinder Tool

The power of data visualization

At the moment I am taking the course Explorative Information Visualization at Aalto University.

This course focus on the process-thinking, and aims to grow the understanding of both the tasks and iteration steps required to make sense of data, and how it can be visualized depending on the context (courses.aalto.fi)

Every student chooses a topic of choice with subjective motivations and an expected outcome.

My choice of topic – UX and Business

With an interest in both user experience and business, I decided to explore and learn from those perspectives. As the teacher said, the perspective is challenging and vague.

My hope is to learn to understand how to

 visualize any user behavioural dataset in any context, in an appealing, and yet simple way, so that a business-minded audience easily can grasp the whole picture of the information.

Our brain makes assumptions

Everybody has its own learning style, and we all see the world through our own reflections and experiences. That in its self is a challenge.

My own learning style is visual, so to me, this explorative visualization of data seems like a natural choice to explain something.

Müller-Lyer illusion

During this course I learned that our brain is a strange piece, and it might fool us to assume things that actually isn’t true.

Take the Müller-Lyer Illusion for example.

These lines are actually of the same length. Amazing isn’t it?

TED Talk – Visualized Inspiration

Maybe you have like I, used Microsoft’s Office package, and tried to visualize excel data, which pretty often doesn’t awaken any emotions:

As expected, this course  requires much work of research, and by searching I found Hans Rosling’s TED Talk (2006) that made me realize it is possible to visualize data in a storytelling way.

Hans Rosling’s TED Talk

Gapminder Tool – first assignment

In parallell with this course (CS-E4450), I have a compulsory course of Digital Business and Venturing, so it seemed natural to use the Eurostat dataset “Self-employment by sex, age and country of birt”.

I found out that Gapminder provides this free offline tool, so thought I try it out for my assignment.

After some hours of trail-errors, I finally got my first version of visualized dataset taken from Eurostat (2018). Gapminder Tool

This is the first trial – an interactive chart with “bubbles”.

This is the second trial – an interactive chart with “lines”

Gapminer trial takeaway

I beleive the first chart with bubbles doesn’t tell any stories or add any value at the first glance. The second chart on the other hand, the one with lines felt easy and more adoptable, and made it more easy to get a picture of the story behind the data.

No doubt in my mind.

Data can easily be the initiator of a visualized story, and both the quality of the dataset, and the choice of visual effects are crucial for success.

I am a believer of exchanging thoughts, so please feel free to give me a comment or two. I am really looking forward to hear about your story!


Take care, stay well and be careful out there in the storm!

Nagu, 22 September 2018


Explorative Information Visualization (2018) Available from:  https://courses.aalto.fi/course/CS-E4450 [Accessed on 21 September 2018].

Eurostat, 2018. Self-employment by sex, age and country of birth dataset. Eurostat. [downloaded 21 Sep 2018]. Available at: http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/setupDownloads.do.

Gapminder Tool (n.b.) Gapminder.org. Available at: https://www.gapminder.org/downloads/.

Rosling, H, 2006. The best stats you’ve ever seen. TED.com [viewed 18 Sep 2018]. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.

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