The Father of Data Visualization
In the age of big data perhaps there is perhaps no one more unjustifiably unknown than Edward Tufte. Many people do not know who Edward Tufte is, but suffice it to say who he is, and moreover what he represents may make him one of the most important icons today in the world of Information Technology. He has been called the “da Vinci of data”, and his work could be loosely characterized as finding optimum graphical representations of complex data. He is an American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University (Wikipedia). He is also a sculptor, artist and the author of “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, a Book that Amazon calls “One of the best 100 books of the 20th Century”. Other works include “Envisioning Information“, and “Beautiful Evidence” He is all about finding ways to convey complex information in a way that is at once fast and intuitive to understand. Tufte is perhaps best known for his use of sparklines and the coining of that phrase. The sparkline was actually invented by Peter Zelchenko, a designer and gifted innovator in his own right. You can see the sparkline today in everything from stock charts to electronic medical record systems to Microsoft Excel. (sparkline example)
There may be no better place for the art of data visualization than in healthcare information technology and predictive analytics. In order to depict an algorithm that is processing multiple parameters, a big part of the interface-processor-display system must be the method of visualization. At the end of the day, whether the data is crunched by IBM Watson Health, Unscrambl, Jaspersoft, or Microsoft Power BI, the method of visualization is actually “the secret sauce”, as a poor visualization object not only makes the mechanics of conveying information more difficult, it detracts from the aesthetic of the product in general.
Some notably successful visualization examples are Philip’s use of the “Culprit Artery Diagram” to depict ST segment values in a polar plot that also identifies the location of the lesion, and Amp3D’s “CoMET Score”. The confluence of Business Intelligence (BI) into clinical intelligence (CI) is already being felt with Qlik and Tableau offering data mining tools in addition to dashboard creation modules. Microsoft Power BI even offers downloadable and customizable visualization tools ready to create dashboards with data residing in the Azure Cloud.
|Philips Culprit Artery Diagram conveys ST severity and lesion location at a glance|| Sparklines allow easy data conveyance at a glance
|| AMP3D CoMET score
- New York Mag: The Minister of Information
- Salon Magazine: The Data Artist
- Penn State University: Edward Tufte – The da Vinci of Data
- Edward Tufte.com
Randall Bardwell is an author, inventor, medical device developer, and a decent chef. By day he is the R&D Director for Life Sciences at Dassault Systems. By night, he is the CEO of Clinical Technology LLC and BioNet.