Data visualisation or dataviz – Definition for dummies

Data visualisation can be summed up by this quote: “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

When Confucius said this sentence back then, he didn’t have a computer.. Nowadays it is more true than ever when you look at all the data companies are collecting. However they are still difficult to analyze, explain and share.

cartographie Toucan Toco

Data visualisation is the art of speaking about figures, in a creative and playful way, where Excel files fail. It’s kind of putting music on encrypted information” says Charles Miglietti, expert in data visualisation and co-founder of Toucan Toco.


Let’s see a concrete example : how many “6” can you count ?

excel toucan toco data visualisation

It’s long. Isn’t it?

Now let’s put the “6” into color: it’s way easier!

dataviz toucan toco data visualisation


magic visualisation toucan toco dataviz


Data visualisation takes its roots from the Gestalt theory’s concepts. We are talking about psychologic bias: human beings tend to organise visual things by groups. It allows to see forms more easily thanks to colors and visual processes.


Another more concrete example: analyzing an Excel file. You wish to point the most visited countries. This table indicates values for each country. But is this the best way to easily and quickly organize these countries?  To explain them to a public?


Now, if we put these data on a map, using a colour chart for visite rate, it’s so much easier to understand:

data sets of countries by toucan toco

cartographie Toucan Toco

When useful data are enlightened in an ergonomic and colorful way, it’s way easier. Brains are visual, they understand 80% of information thanks to this. We need to extract useful information from the superabundance of data and erase excesses.

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Searching and interpret data from a table is often long and fastidious. Dataviz offers a huge gain of time. The access to data is quick, precise and easy to understand. Business data are often scattered on different mediums, which leads to a more difficult analyze. Dataviz allows you to gather them into one screen with precise charts. These indicators are gathered into ergonomic dashboards you can use in real time. They are showing you trends that cannot be seen otherwise. So now, it’s easier to make informed decisions.




The pros of using Dataviz in a company is that it allows regular people and decision maker to manipulate data. This without being a expert or an analyst. People who could have felt excluded from data, have now access to it. This is a huge improvement for information transparency. Communication between departments is easier as once complicated finance figures are now translated into beautiful visuals.




Dataviz makes it easy to travel from an information to another while using massive databases. You can show different type of data through graphics.

However, during a presentation, the goal isn’t only to speak about results. You have to offer an overview of your whole activity; to make a funnel-shaped analyze to understand a fluctuation. Pedagogy should be applied to the whole context so that the public gets the meaning of all data.

Linechart Toucan Toco

The Guardian is a good example on how you can use data storytelling to simplify a difficult matter. We all think our purchasing power decreased for the past 30 years. Our incomes are higher today but the cost of living has increased as well. The comparison is difficult to make. This data visualisation brings transparency and shows us that our standard of living actually is increasing for some people.


This is a good example of storytelling. It visually explains the evolution by comparing different countries, age categories and years. It comes here with some short commentaries to guide the audience. That is a powerful way of communication.


Either for HR and staff evolution or for finance and balance sheet understanding and so on, each data brings a message. Each chart should have a clear and precise message to facilitate understanding. This is data storytelling.




Excel and PowerPoint charts are frequently used, but their functionalities are limited and sometimes misused. For instance the famous pie chart becomes useless with more than 3 or 4 values because it is hard to simply compare which one is bigger than the other.

pie chart fail toucan toco



Companies and institutions are increasingly using data visualisation tools, often presented as dashboards with varying degrees of precision.

great example of Bubble chart Toucan Toco

Dataviz is also used for amusement. It’s easier to “read” news presented through a beautiful visual form than through a never ending article. For example, here is the CAC 40 participation per company on the French market (see more here).

Beyond this example, we can even show data with animations, or even videos. The most famous is Billion-Dollar-A-gram, by David McCandless, a real master in this field!


Esthetical, functional, easy to use: data visualisation is a power tool to democratise access to data. It facilitate comprehension and analyze of figures and helps bring transparency in companies.. When a story actually tells something, dataviz is the best ally for decision-makers.


You like dataviz? Don’t hesitate to read our other articles on our blog, or to have a look at our website.

Kilian Bazin, CEO of Toucan Toco

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