You are previewing Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics.

Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics

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Gather Data

Data is the core of any visualization. Fortunately, there are a lot of places to find it. You can get it from experts in the area you’re interested in, a variety of online applications, or you can gather it yourself.

Provided by Others

This route is common, especially if you’re a freelance designer or work in a graphics department of a larger organization. This is a good thing a lot of the time because someone else did all the data gathering work for you, but you still need to be careful. A lot of mistakes can happen along the way before that nicely formatted spreadsheet gets into your hands.

When you share data with spreadsheets, the most common mistake to look for is typos. Are there any missing zeros? Did your client or data supplier mean six instead of five? At some point, data was read from one source and then input into Excel or a different spreadsheet program (unless a delimited text file was imported), so it’s easy for an innocent typo to make its way through the vetting stage and into your hands.

You also need to check for context. You don’t need to become an expert in the data’s subject matter, but you should know where the original data came from, how it was collected, and what it’s about. This can help you build a better graphic and tell a more complete story when you design your graphic. For example, say you’re looking at poll results. When did the poll take place? Who conducted the poll? Who answered? Obviously, poll results from 1970 are going to take ...

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