The Future of Data Visualization: Three Predictions

Prior to the holiday season Ann K Emery asked a group of us bloggers to come up with some data visualization predictions for the upcoming year.  Here are 3 of my own predictions based on some of the things I already see happening (a.k.a. projections).

What are your predictions?  Let me know in the comments.

Free Upcoming Webinar:

Before we jump into my projections I wanted to invite to a webinar I’ll be giving to the NTEN Data Community of Practice.

It’s called “Infographic and Dashboard Design for Data People” and will be held on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada).  It’s free to attend, just register here.  I’m going to try to make it fun and interactive using a bit of live drawing.  If you join, come with questions.

Now on to my predictions…

1. The number of “visual people” in high places will increase.

Let's push for more visuals cartoon by Chris Lysy

The web is a visual place.  The best websites are always filled with pictures.

Countless numbers have grown up in the visual content world.  People often called digital natives, of which many are entering the middle years of their careers.  You can add to that the large numbers of visually attuned folks and new visual converts from prior generations.

The result, more visual people in positions of authority by the day.  The kinds of positions that control budgets.  The kinds of positions that can tell their consultants and staff that they want dashboards and infographics, and actually put money or man hours into the request.

Get ready to see a lot more.

2. Written content shock will lead to increased visual demand (as well as demand for audio and video).

Overwhelmed so only cat videos cartoon by Chris Lysy

The vast majority of us are far more comfortable with the written word than we are with charts, pictures, video and audio.  Subsequently, more and more written content is finding its way to the web every second.  Reports included.

In a world of words the visual shines through.

Data visualization is what I like to call academically acceptable illustration.  Pictures you can get published without the push back.  As reaching overwhelmed audiences becomes harder, demand for charts will increase.

3. The tools will get easier and better, while those that use them will get more experienced.

Charts are getting better cartoon by Chris Lysy

Have you played around in Canva or Piktochart?  These are not the conceptual tools of the last decade.  These are inexpensive (mostly free) and easy tools that allow you to create honest to goodness professional work.  Expect to see more.

Sometimes I laugh a little when I look at my work from even just a few years ago.  It’s amazing what a little practice can do.

Seeing the progression of my colleagues and friends at conferences is pretty cool.  A few year’s ago, presentations were basic and general.  As the years have gone on, they’ve become more and more specific with a much higher quality product at the end.  The future is looking bright.


  1. Chris Lysy on January 13, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Anyone have a prediction?
    I predict that some of you have predictions but just don’t want to be the first person to comment on this post.

    • Kathy Ferreira on January 13, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      The future is now! Yes, I’ve seen these three predictions playing out for a little while now. My prediction? Too many non-visual people continue to live in denial about these trends. 😉

      • Chris Lysy on January 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm

        I think you’re right on that one Kathy 🙂

  2. Matt Fitzgerald on January 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    This is spot on, Chris. In our experience at Upwell translating countless nonprofit reports, news events and scientific papers for online audiences the number one gap is usually a compelling visual. My (easy) prediction is that sketching (napkin-based or otherwise) will become a standard part of publishing plans. The smart folks will do this at the front-end. Comms trainers and consultants used to ask people to write the headline they’d like to see, then it was the tweet-length summary. 2015 may finally bring widespread acceptance that images are the gateway to attention.

    • Chris Lysy on January 13, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      That sounds great to me Matt 🙂

  3. Anne Heberger Marino on January 15, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I predict you are right, Chris. Last week I did some data viz work for a colleague because someone in authority told said colleague to make their report look like a report we did. I made our report cover in Canva and all the visualizations were done in Excel.
    I also predict that unskillful dataviz will become as unacceptable as misusing your/you’re, there/their/they’re, and than/then in text. 🙂

    • Chris Lysy on January 15, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Well there’s an ego boost for your reporting prowess Anne 🙂
      Nice prediction, definitely true currently in some circles.

      • Anne Heberger Marino on January 16, 2015 at 8:51 am

        When this happened I thought of it as a win for the work of evaluation and data viz. I didn’t have a “Yay, me, Yay team” reaction. But now that you mention it, maybe a small cheer was justified. I give the credit to colleagues like you who share the skills and knowledge that allow the rest of us to look fancy . I’m quite taken with your phrase “academically acceptable illustration”. It may wind up in a future blog post. 🙂