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Visualizing data

A short talk I recently delivered on data visualization. The slides draw heavily upon the work of Edward Tufte (I claim no credit) and were meant to inspire the audience and think about the possibilities for presenting data effectively.

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Visualizing data

  1. 1. FACILITATOR Michael Netzley, PhD Academic Director, SMU ExD 17 October 2014 DAY 1
  2. 2. Who Can Tell Me…
  3. 3. Anything About Napoleon’s March on Russia in 1814? • French Invasion of Russia: 24 June – 14 December, 1812 • 680,000 soldiers in the Grande Armee; 200,000 Russian soldiers • Reached Moscow on Sept 14 and exited on Oct 19 with only 100,000 troops • Battlefield death, wounded, disease and desertion were reasons for losses • During the return, exposure during an early winter and starvation added to the toll • Failure was the beginning of Napoleon’s end Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  4. 4. Brutal elegance of Napoleon’s ill-fated march on Russia
  5. 5. Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  6. 6. About The Prof Michael Netzley
  7. 7. • Academic Director, SMU Executive Development • In Asia and SMU faculty since 2002 • Daddy with 3 daughters & 1 son • 2011 Champion’s Award, Innovative Course Design and Delivery • 2010 & 2011 Research Fellow, Society for New Communication Research • Visiting positions in Argentina, Berlin, Finland, Slovenia, and Japan • Key clients include Unilever, IBM, IHG, BNP Paribas, Singapore Airlines, TCS, 3M, UOB, Singapore’s MFA & MoE, Singhgealth, Raffles Medical, Schneider Electric, Sumitomo Chemical and Infineon. • PhD, University of Minnesota
  8. 8. How We Get It Wrong
  9. 9. Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  10. 10. Can be boring and easy to re-interpret or dismiss. Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  11. 11. • Napoleon took power in 1799 • He then earned several military victories giving him nearly complete control over most of Europe • Following a dispute, Napoleon decided it was time to teach Alexander of Russia a lesson • French Invasion of Russia: 24 June – 14 December, 1812 • 680,000 soldiers in the Grande Armee; 200,000 Russian soldiers • Initially, Napoleon’s march into Russia was largely uncontested, until just outside of Moscow at the city of Borodino • Reached Moscow and exited on October 19 with only 100,000 troops • By then the Russians had fled the city, left it burning, and had taken most of the food with them • Up to this point, battlefield death, wounded, disease and desertion were why Napoleon’s army was much smaller in size. • With no spoils of war available, Napoleon decided to leave Russia and return to France on Sept. 14 • During the return, exposure to an early winter and starvation added to the death toll • This ill-fated march on Moscow marked the beginning of Napoleon’s end Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  12. 12. 2.6 2.4 2.2 2 1.8 Scissors Western Roll Straddle Fosbury Flop 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014 Source: Pascale
  13. 13. Visual data reveals the source of a disease • Lesson 1: Place data in the appropriate context • Lesson 2: Enable meaningful comparisons • Lesson 3: Consider alternative explanations and contrary cases Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  14. 14. Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  15. 15. Pa#ern Recogni-on
  16. 16. How to better drive comparison of specific data points When to Use Tables • Total data points are fewer than 20-25 • Need to make specific comparisons of specific numbers • Be sure to use interpreting titles: “Data Reveals Increased Economic Growth” • Forget the fancy formatting and focus on making the presentation clear and unambiguous When to Use Graphs & Charts • When you have more than 25 data points • Want to show comparisons between groups or categories (graphs) • When you want to compare trends across time (chart) • Again, focus on precision of presentation and no need to get fancy
  17. 17. Data Integrity
  18. 18. Look at how exaggerated the presentation is when compared to the facts Federal Law: mandated a 53% increase in fuel economy in 1978, from 18 miles per gallon to 27.5 miles per gallon by 1985. Graphic Display: presents this as a 783% increase by starCng with a line .6 inches long and increasing to a line 5.3 inches long.
  19. 19. When Poor Data Presentation Costs Lives
  20. 20. Here the vertical axis emphasizes risk (rather than event)
  21. 21. For Fun
  22. 22. Source:
  23. 23. Best Resources
  24. 24. Michael Netzley, Phd. 2014
  25. 25. Credit for the ideas in this presentation must be given to Prof. Edward Tufte and you can read more about his work at