7 Data Visualization Cartoons, is it a fad and what is qualitative visualization?

“I have a question, is all of this just a fad?”

This was asked a couple of weeks ago while I was giving a presentation on interactive data visualization and infographics.

My answer, which I base on three points, is this, “no, it’s not just a fad.”

  • The internet is visual (auditory too but that’s a different post).  As your audience has grown more accustomed to the visual nature of the web, the demand for multimedia has spread beyond the online environment.  The demand for infographics is not so different from the demand for more visuals in a Power Point presentation.  The web’s not going to suddenly become less visual and neither will the demand beyond the web.
  • Your audience is overwhelmed and overloaded.  They have access to too much information, so merely providing access is almost always insufficient.  Decision makers, secondary analysts and other stakeholders need to be given a guided tour.  That is if you think your data is important enough and useful enough that it’s worth their time in the first place.
  • There is an increasing level of interest for dashboards, interactive reports, and infographics from people with budgets.  I know this because I’ve become more popular lately, and it’s not because of my cartoons.

Here is a new set of cartoons inspired by my visualization work.

Here is how so many qualitative visualizations start.

Step One Quantify your Data cartoon by Chris Lysy

We’re overthinking it, qualitative visualization predates the quantitative stuff.  We just call it illustration.

Real Qualitative Visualization by Chris Lysy

Why so many evaluation dashboards are pretty unnecessary.

Dashboard stuck on 35 cartoon by Chris Lysy

 But the bigger problem is usually this.

No updates cartoon by Chris Lysy

 Many try to get around this by using something they know.

Excel Visual Dashboard Cartoon by Chris Lysy

There are other good options, but where to start?

Gamechanger Cartoon by Chris Lysy

Or I guess you could just forget it and add a few more pictures to your standard reports.

Can't we visualize the non-web stuff cartoon by Chris Lysy


  1. Mallory on April 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    #3 looked very familiar. Thanks for sharing!

    • Chris Lysy on April 10, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks for the comment Mallory :)http://freshspectrum.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

  2. Veronica Smith on April 11, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Chris,
    Fun ideas. And, I have to push back on Excel is a viable (and not inferior) product for dashboard build. I am offering a a dashboard build workshop in July. Maybe you can check it out and see if I can convince you that it is a appropriate tool to start with for certain teams. The key is that people use the tool and beta test it like a software product before investing $50K+ of money in an a BI tool. Excel can be a vehicle for that.

    • Chris Lysy on April 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks Veronica,

      I understand the push back but here is my response.

      I’ve been a pretty heavy Excel user throughout my career/college (~15 years) and I’ve only spent about 6 months as a heavier user of Tableau. For dashboards where you actually have a good amount of data, Tableau visuals are faster to create and have capabilities you can barely touch with Excel.

      On the investment side, if the comparison is an Excel based system, you don’t need hosted Tableau server. There is a ton you can do with a basic desktop installation ($1K) and free Tableau readers.