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20 best data visualization quotes

Bernard Marr, Author & Consultant in Strategic Performance, Analytics, KPIs and Big Data


Check out these top 20 visualization quotes that should be on every data scientist’s reading list.

Data visualization is increasingly being seen as the essential last step of any successful data-driven analytics strategy.

Here are 20 of the most insightful quotes on the importance of carefully and clearly communicating your findings to the people who need to take action based on them.


“There is no such thing as information overload. There is only bad design.” – Edward Tufte

“The single biggest threat to the credibility of a presentation is cherry-picked data.” – Edward Tufte

“Visualization gives you answers to questions you didn’t know you had.” – Ben Schneiderman

“An editorial approach to visualization design requires us to take responsibility to filter out the noise from the signals, identifying the most valuable, most striking or most relevant dimensions of the subject matter in question.” – Andy Kirk

“There is a magic in graphs. The profile of a curve reveals in a flash a whole situation — the life history of an epidemic, a panic, or an era of prosperity. The curve informs the mind, awakens the imagination, convinces.” – Henry D. Hubbard

“By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes. A sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful.” – David McCandless

“Data is the new oil? No, data is the new soil.” – David McCandless

“Most of us need to listen to the music to understand how beautiful it is. But often that’s how we present statistics: we just show the notes, we don’t play the music.” – Hans Rosling

“In school we learn a lot about language and math. On the language side we learn how to put words together into sentences and stories. With math, we learn to make sense of numbers. But it’s rare that these two sides are paired. No one tells us how to tell stories with numbers … this leaves us poorly prepared for an important task that is increasingly in demand.” – Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

“To find signals in data, we must learn to reduce the noise – not just the noise that resides in the data, but also the noise that resides in us. It is nearly impossible for noisy minds to perceive anything but noise in data.” – Stephen Few

“You can achieve simplicity in the design of effective charts, graphs and tables by remembering three fundamental principles: restrain, reduce, emphasize.” – Garr Reynolds

“Data visualization doesn’t live in an ethereal dimension, separated from the data. When there’s a large number of pie-charts in a report or a presentation, there is something wrong in the organization, and it’s not the pie. A pie chart is a potential symptom of lack of data analysis skills that have to be resolved.” – Jorge Camoes

“The ability to visualize data is an essential piece to the puzzle of data exploration and use … the fear data providers have of having their data trivialized, misunderstood or misrepresented also apply to the process of making visualizations, even simple ones … Visualizing data changes how data are understood and increases interest in data generally, which will encourage more and better data to be developed.” – Robert Kosara

“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” – John Tukey

“Information graphics should be aesthetically pleasing but many designers think about aesthetics before they think about structure, about the information itself, about the story the graphic should tell.” – Alberto Cairo

“My best advice is to not start in PowerPoint. Presentation tools force you to think through information linearly, and you really need to start by thinking of the whole instead of the individual lines.” – Nancy Duarte

“Learn data, and you can tell stories that more people don’t even know about yet but are eager to hear.” – Nathan Yau

“Presenting is a fundamentally different form of communication than writing. Treating your presentation and your paper identically – moving text into bullets, and copying and pasting tables from the paper to the slides … sets your audience up for death by PowerPoint.” – Jonathan Schwabish

“If policymakers and those trying to affect policy can’t effectively communicate their ideas—and visualization is a key tool in those efforts—it will be hard to convert those ideas into improved policy.” – Jonathan Schwabish

“I think the organizations that mostly help rising the bar and moving forward are all the other disciplines and professions that are discovering nowadays what visualization can do for them. From sociology to humanities, from lawyers and managers to decision makers and urban planners, new and often unexpected areas are addressing visualization with novel questions and specific needs. In most of the cases these new questions cannot be answered with the traditional/standard solutions.” – Paolo Ciuccarelli