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Beautiful Visualization by Julie Steele, Noah Iliinsky

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Chapter 20. Visualization: Indexed.

Jessica Hagy

Visualization: It's an Elephant.

VISUALIZATION. To one person, it's charts and graphs and ROI. To another, it's illustration and colorful metaphor and gallery openings. To a third, it's that wonderfully redundant compound word: infographics. Visualization. It's a term that's been pulled and yanked like so much conceptual taffy. It's like that old tale of three blindfolded men who are asked to describe an elephant. One touches the elephant's tail and says, "An elephant is like a rope." Another touches the elephant's leg and says, "An elephant is like a tree trunk." The third man touches the elephant's trunk and says, "An elephant is like a snake." None of them is completely wrong, but none is completely right, because none of them can see the entire animal (Figure 20-1).

Visualization is only something (and everything) you can see. It's both the entire mosaic and a single, sparkling tessera. It's not just graphs. It's not just visual metaphors. It's not just graphic design in service instead of bullet points. It's not just sketching out ideas. It's not just data analysis. Those are just slivers of the larger concept.

Really good, beautiful, powerful visualization—visualization that touches both the mind and the heart—isn't just about an image, a snapshot, or a glance through a windowpane (Figure 20-2). Powerful visualization passes the elephant test: it's practically impossible to describe, but instantly recognizable. This chapter will ...

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