Data Visualization and Samuel L Jackson’s Left Eye

I recently saw part of an interview that Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds did for “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” In it, Jackson mentioned that he learned his lines for playing Nick Fury in the Marvel films and then he’d get on set and couldn’t remember them. The reason turned out to be that he learned the lines with both of his eyes, but Nick Fury wears an eye patch. Lines he read and learned with two eyes, he couldn’t reproduce while only using one eye. He’s talked about this for years but I just heard about it, so I feel justified in presenting it as wholly new information.

I found it fascinating, because it sums up why a focus on data visualization is so important. I know it seems like an analogy stretched well beyond breaking point to connect a celebrity to data visualization, but if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already clicked the article, so follow me on this.

One small change to how Mr. Jackson was able to visually take in data was all it took to throw him off completely. One small change and he had difficulty with processing information. And this is a man who does this specific thing for a living, day in and day out – he’s been in hundreds of movies, and said millions of words memorized in the exact same manner. He doesn’t stop working, but this stopped him.

One small change
So, think about it, how much can you optimize your end user’s understanding of data with a small change? How much can you destroy it? And that data and the understanding of it can form the basis of important decisions or at least affect those decisions.

A visualization is never just there to make things pretty. It affects the story in the heads of the viewers, and so finding the right way to view and display data is essential.

So many terrible puns could be used to end this article, but I’d rather that you remember – this is why planning, discussion, iteration, and review of visualizations are necessary for dashboard design, and even why data visualization among analysts is such a useful tool.

You have to find the visualization that actually hits the person in a meaningful way and will sit with them. It doesn’t matter if you’re using MicroStrategy, Tableau, Excel, or a drawing on a napkin. The right visualization may be a single big red number, it might be a standard line or bar chart, it might be a more interesting design like from my friends at VitaraCharts (yes, yes, I’m a corporate shill), or it might be a complex visualization that you have to build for yourself.

But a technical designer who doesn’t find the business user’s way of taking in the data, runs the risk of blocking the insights.

Yeah, sure, like an eye patch or something… fine…