The past few years, we’ve experienced a frenzy about how to understand the massive datasets of the Big Data Craze. The ancient field of Data Visualization went through a revolution and has been revitalized by the use of new technology and visualizing large, complex datasets. Now that things are stabilizing, we will see four major themes in the next few years: specialization, education, automation, and integration.
What is currently a field of niche programmers and academics, reinventing themselves with broad focus, will become more defined as individuals specialize and more people join the field. Companies will fulfill their data visualization needs in various ways. Similar to the field of design, we will see freelancers, agencies and internal teams.
Smaller, less data-oriented companies will have one-off tasks that will want freelance data visualizers for contract work. Other companies might want an agency to help with a larger contract, such as consultation on a dashboard. For example, Dataveyes, a French digital data agency used ski gear renting data to build an interactive experience for a sports retail store. If a company has a strong focus on data, an internal data visualization department will be instrumental incorporate that focus into their business.
The upsurge in specialization in will create a high demand for data visualization education, resulting in lots of new curriculum. We are already seeing classes teaching how to inform with data both online and at universities. There are workshops being taught to get people up to speed — Edward Tufte, a pioneer of information graphics, hosts one multiple times a month. There are even conferences centered around visualizing data.
In the next few years, data visualization courses, workshops, and conferences will see an increase in number and more specialized topics. Maybe we will even see Data Science departments at large Universities.
As with any basic task that needs to be performed often, much of data manipulation and presentation will be automated. For developers, there are many new libraries (such as vega) to help skip the tedious, redundant tasks. We are also seeing many tools that do not require coding – read about some of them here.
In the next few years, we will also see automated data visualization for those without any prior experience. Much like Squarespace or WordPress themes are “automated design,” companies will be able to automate information graphics without an expert.
Over the next few years, the most pervasive change in the field of data visualization will also be the most inconspicuous — the death of “data visualization” as an explicit thing. Good representations of data will cease being “data visualizations,” and the viewer’s focus will be moved to the purpose of the graphic. It will go the way of design — so pervasive, it’s hard to tell where it starts and where it ends.