Data Visualization Made Simple: Insights Into Becoming Visual by Kristen Sosulski is a guide to becoming visual with data. The book is for creatives, data wonks, and everyone in-between.

Data visualization is the process of representing information graphically. Relationships, patterns, similarities, and differences are encoded through shape, color, position, and size. These visual representations of data can make your findings and ideas stand out.

Data visualization is an essential skill in our data-driven world.  Almost every aspect of our daily routine generates data: the steps we take, the movies we watch, the goods we purchase, and the conversations we have. Much of this data, our digital exhaust, is stored waiting for someone to make sense of it. But why is anyone interested in these quotidian actions?

Imagine you are Nike, Netflix, Amazon, or Twitter. Your data helps these companies better understand you and other users like you. Companies utilize this information to target markets, develop new products, and ultimately outpace their competition by knowing their customers’ habits and needs. However, such insights do not just “automagically” happen.

One does not simply transform data into information. It requires several steps: cleaning the data, formatting the data, interrogating the data, analyzing the data, and evaluating the results.

Let’s take this a step further. Suppose you identify new markets your company should target. Would you know how to effectively share this information? Could you provide clear evidence that would convince your company to allocate resources to implement your recommendations?

What would you rather present: A spreadsheet with the raw data? Or a graphic that shows the data analyzed in an informative way? I imagine you would want to show your insight so that it could understood by anyone from interns to executives.

Data visualization can help make access to data equitable. Data graphics with dashboard displays and/or web-based interfaces, can change an organization’s culture regarding data use. Access to shared information can promote data-driven decision making throughout the organization.

Clear information presentations that support decision making in your organization can give you a leg up. Understanding data and making it clear for others via data graphics is the art of becoming visual.

The strategies in this book show you how to present clear evidence of your findings to your intended audience and tell engaging data stories through data visualization.

This book is written as a textbook for creatives, educators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders in a variety of industries. The data visualization field is rooted in statistics, psychology, and computer science, which makes it a practice in almost every field that involves data exploration and presentation. Whether you are a seasoned visualization designer or a novice, this book will serve as a primer and reference to becoming visual with data.

As a professor of information systems, my work lies at the intersection of technology, data, and business. I use data graphics in my practice for data exploration and presentation.

I teach executives, full-time MBA students, and train companies in the process of visualizing data. Teaching allows me to stay current with the latest software and challenges me to articulate the key concepts, techniques, and practices needed to become visual. The following chapters embody my data visualization practice and my course curriculum.

This book promotes both an exploratory and an inquiry-based approach to visualization. Data tasks are treated as visualization problems and use quantitative techniques from statistics and data mining to detect patterns and trends. You’ll learn how to create clear, purposeful, and beautiful displays. Exercises accompany each chapter. This allows you to practice and apply the techniques presented.

How and why do professionals incorporate data visualization into their practice? To answer these questions, I engaged professionals in business analytics, human resources, marketing, research, education, politics, gaming, entrepreneurship, and project management to share their practice through brief case studies and interviews. The cases and interviews illustrate how people and organizations use data visualization to aid in their decision making, data exploration, data modeling, presentation, and reporting. My hope is that these diverse examples motivate you to make data visualization part of your practice.

By the end of this book, you will be able to create data graphics and use them with purpose.


defines data visualization, describes the work of visualization designers, and presents the case for using data graphics.

II. THE TOOLS describe the popular software, platforms, and programming languages used to visualize data.

THE GRAPHICS presents over thirty types of charts and the insights that they best portray.

IV. THE DATA provides techniques for data preparation including data formatting and cleaning. Visual data exploration methods that aid in data understanding are presented with examples.

V. THE DESIGN demonstrates the application of design standards to improve readability, clarity, and accessibility of the data insights through graphics.

VI. THE AUDIENCE offers practical tips for telling stories with data that will resonate with your audience.

VII. THE PRESENTATION offers tactics for designing and delivering data presentations. The common pitfalls and how to avoid them are explained.

VIII. THE CASES illustrate how data graphics are used in practice through five case studies. Each case study showcases a unique approach to using data graphics in different settings.

IX. THE END synthesizes the key takeaways from each chapter into a concise roadmap to guide your visualization practice.