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The Economy of Food at Sporting Events
Image source: www.sports-management-degrees.com

As we learn to make sense of ever expanding amounts of data into simple recommendations, we would do well to think about presenting data in a better way. People often make the mistake of describing themselves as either a “numbers person” or a “picture person”, but in reality we all possess two sides of the brain. …right (images) and left (analytics). I read an article this week which makes the point that the best way to drive understanding is by presenting analytical data in a visual way. This engages both sides of the brain and thus helps us to quickly internalize what we are seeing.

We might be tempted to say that data visualization is easier said than done (but then what isn’t?). We might also be tempted to say that most market research data isn’t that interesting. I tend to disagree.  

Just last week I exchanged some emails with Sophia Barber of Sports-management-degrees.com. She pointed me to a great info graphic about spending on food at sporting events. It is colorful and comprehensively covers a lot of data. If you are a “numbers person” you might try paging about halfway down where all of the underlying data are presented in stark form. My bet would be that even the staunchest numbers person will get more from the combination than from the dull recitation of facts.  

Of course, both food and sports are relatively interesting topics, but what if the topic isn’t fun and interesting? I still say that results from even highly analytical studies (things like conjoint, discrete choice, pricing studies and so on) can be made more memorable and more interesting through the simple addition of pictures and I mean pictures that go beyond simple graphs and charts (which are often as dull as a list of numbers). Doing so drives the point home faster and with that makes our work more relevant.  

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Numbers That Don't Add Up

Posted by on in Better Graphics

In my last blog I talked about a simple chart on Morning Joe, which was presented by Steven Rattner. I submitted that when we see data presented in the media or especially by politicians, we should judge it in terms of how a researcher would have presented the same data (because of course researchers are free of bias...well let's leave that for another blog). I gave Mr. Rattner a pass last time, but his presentation of a chart on infrastructure was misleading and would only have pleased a client who wanted misleading data to prove a point.

In this case he presented a chart showing infrastructure spending as a percentage of GDP . It showed a massive drop from the high in the 1950's to the low of today. The chart had a y axis that went from 0% to 1.5% which made the drop easier to see. Nothing wrong with that (assuming those viewing the chart understood that it was not based on 0-100%).

magical_eyeThere's a lot of discussion today about the researcher as story-teller. Most of it has to do with the choices we make as analysts - what to focus on and what to discard; all important stuff.

Ultimately, however, we have to step up and tell those stories and good visual display is critical to that effort. Too often we fall short of effective in this area, and that's a problem. Market Researchers are fighting everyday for respect, but we'll never get it if we can't communicate the good (or bad) news we have to tell about brands and products and customers. To quote "Information Is Beautiful" author David McCandless from a recent interview in "Research:"

...everything you create now design-wise is competing with everything else that everyone ever looks at. So market research stuff is looking worse and worse as time goes by, because the web and good design are becoming more and more of a daily experience for people.

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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Thanks for this very good advice. I've often talked about the need for the market researcher to stand with one foot outside the m

We all love great charts.

Well, perhaps it's more accurate to say that we all like looking at great charts. Infographics and other fetching examples of visual display are passed around among researchers like irresistible candy-coated treats, and yet let's face it - most market research-related charts stink, providing limited information in a not-so-thoughtful or (dare to dream) artful format.

There are lots of reasons why our charts end up this way, and for sure I've contributed my share of the mediocrity. I realize that not every study has the immediacy, the intrigue, and the rich data of an event like the recent tsunami. I also know that often we're pressed for time and have limited tools at our disposal. But communication of results and actionability of results go hand in hand, and lamenting the evils of PowerPoint won't help us communicate better anytime soon. It's the coin of the realm, so we better make the most of it.

Netflix Rental Patterns

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

Have you ever been curious about the popularity of rental movies by neighborhood? The NY Times graphics department was and they got movie rental data from Netflix for a dozen cities. The result is this very interesting visual.

Tagged in: Movies visualization

For those interested in the visual display of information Edward Tufte is no stranger. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Statistics and Computer Science at Yale, but his claim to fame is expertise in displaying information. A quick visit to his website will show you the scope of his work and suffice to say he is a renowned expert. Now he is getting in the act to help the government.

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