How do companies effectively leverage data visualization tools? For many C-level and IT professionals, the solution often seems tied to bigger budgets and better spending—but shouldn’t the right tools make the process of sorting, analyzing, and elegantly displaying data easier? And they do, up to a point. But best-in-class software only takes organizations so far. Now, a professor at the University of Nebraska is using Lego blocks as the foundation for understanding Big Data visualization. How can companies tap into this kind of brick-by-brick learning?

A New View

According to the American Journalism Review, Professor Matt Waite has struggled in the past to effectively teach the fundamentals of data visualization to his journalism students. Inspired by Mashable’s “Lego Congress Timelapse,” Waite decided to try Lego in the classroom instead of starting with software interfaces. He chose a high-profile target for students’ first visualization: the 2015 Super Bowl. Waite said the Lego blocks had an effect, noting that students “immediately set about discussing what they would visualize and how they were going to make the bricks mean something.” Rather than focusing on the abstract commands often associated with Big Data software, Waite’s class was able to dive in headfirst and start building Lego visualizations on their own.

Meaningful Data

Waite’s experiment speaks to the critical challenge of data visualization: making data meaningful. Without the ability to immediately grab and engage users, the impact of these visualizations is reduced, and if data sourced isn’t clearly linked to actionable outcomes, the effort of creating visual representations may be wasted. speaks to the impact of an emerging form of visualizations: interactive webgraphics. The article notes that these images provide a number of benefits including a break from “data dump,” along with content that encourages users to share rather than simply observe and forget. No matter what form companies choose for their data visualizations, these are essential aspects to consider.

Build It Up

The bottom line for data visualizations? It’s all in the foundation. Just like Lego, it’s a good idea to start small, start simple, and have some of idea of the finished product—by assigning clear meaning to each aspect of an image, companies can avoid the common pitfalls of over-used infographics and instead create content which both speaks to users and encourages them to share what they’ve learned.

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