Get your Wild Kingdom on: a guided tour of the visualization zoo

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Last week the ACM Queue publised a an interesting and wonderfully distracting article on its web site that runs through some powerful visualization techniques, with pictures.

Parallel coordinates exampleThis article provides a brief tour through the “visualization zoo,” showcasing techniques for visualizing and interacting with diverse data sets. In many situations, simple data graphics will not only suffice, they may also be preferable. Here we focus on a few of the more sophisticated and unusual techniques that deal with complex data sets. After all, you don’t go to the zoo to see Chihuahuas and raccoons; you go to admire the majestic polar bear, the graceful zebra, and the terrifying Sumatran tiger. Analogously, we cover some of the more exotic (but practically useful!) forms of visual data representation, starting with one of the most common, time-series data; continuing on to statistical data and maps; and then completing the tour with hierarchies and networks. Along the way, bear in mind that all visualizations share a common “DNA”—a set of mappings between data properties and visual attributes such as position, size, shape, and color—and that customized species of visualization might always be constructed by varying these encodings.