The Geograph project is an experiment to collect, publish, organize, and preserve representative images and associated information for every square kilometer of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. I heard about it in an essay by Jason Dykes and Jo Wood in the 2009 book, Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions.
There are some terrific quotes in this essay, which is titled, “The Geographic Beauty of a Photographic Archive.” While the quotes are specifically about collecting, publishing, organizing, and preserving images documenting the UK, they are highly relevant for Business Discovery.
Beauty and brains matter a lot. “. . . Things of beauty should be lucid, usable, and ultimately satisfying as well as elegant.” So true. Business Discovery software must be simple and straightforward to use, with rich, sophisticated technology under the covers. It must be functional yet elegant.
Visual patterns help people derive insights. “. . . The beauty in data lies in its depth. Beauty emerges as previously hidden structures and patterns are revealed. These patterns prompt new thoughts and questions about the data. They inspire. They encourage exploration. They provide insight.” With a Business Discovery platform, users can ask and answer their own streams of questions. They can zoom in on a particular view of the data, identify patterns and outliers, and narrow their focus based on discoveries.
People need to be able to explore data their own way. “Exploration of data is an important part of the scientific endeavor and can lead to insights, hypotheses to be tested, and validation of prior theory. Beautiful data warrants exploration. It contains patterns, structures, and anomalies that are not immediately apparent but emerge as reward for mining the hidden depths within.” By visualizing data in new ways, and seeing the associations in the data — seeing not only the data that is associated, but that data that is not associated — people can derive insights that lead to faster, more effective decision making.
The genius lies in meaningful simplicity. “A simple graphic that is easy to understand but shows very little data is not beautiful . . . Rather, beautiful data visualization shows things that are complex but in a way that makes them easier to understand—perhaps by focusing attention on certain aspects of the data or emphasizing particular perspectives.” Data visualization is an art. We respectfully offer a few suggestions in the QlikView Technical Brief, “Mobile User Interface Design Best Practices.”
Business Discovery is all about putting data exploration in the hands of the people. Essays like this one help drive home the need for technology solutions that empower ordinary people to derive extraordinary insights. Try to get your hands on it. It’s worth the read.