D3: Downright Beautiful Data Visualisation

Do you work in tech? Would you like more arresting visual art in your day-to-day?

Imagine no more.

We’re Mike and JJ, and we’re here to tell you how to make complex data more quickly understandable with visualisations.

In the work we do here at Dauntless, every software application we develop generates data of some kind, from the high-level information provided by our users, to low-level network activity logs recorded by our servers.

Hidden within this data are valuable patterns of information, which are impossible to see when viewing the data in its raw form. To reveal these hidden patterns, visualisations can be created which illustrate insightful aspects of the data as dynamic graphical images.

Traditionally, basic graphs such as bar charts, line charts and pie charts have been the standard for visualising simple patterns of data, but they are unable to represent more complex information – i.e., the type of information that we deal with every day. When navigating and understanding the vast array of data generated by an app or website, it’s import to make it easy to view and understand.

“D3 is just as much about the artistic, creative possibilities of data visualisation, as it is about communicating practical information to an audience.”

The D3 Purpose

This open source platform provides you with different sets of abilities for customising geometrical elements. This functionality can range from adding CSS properties, to HTML attributes – you can also append D3 functionality to alter the way those elements present themselves.

How D3 Works

Take the example of the Sunburst (a bit like a glorified pie chart). Where a normal pie chart just gives you one layer of data, a Sunburst can provide multiple levels of data, which lets you extrapolate more information, or go as granular, or as high level as you want.

Imagine you’re in coffee shop, such as the amazing Allsaints Leatherhead (our favourite coffee shop, by the way), having a look at the menu. At the highest level, you have a basic choice, between coffee, tea, fruit juice, etc. But then within the subsection of coffee, you have more choices: do you go with a flat white, your usual cappuccino, or a latte? And then, you can go even more granular than that, such as having a double shot, if so inclined.

So you see, a Sunburst offers the same, expanded possibilities when it comes to data and options for presentation. This kind of visualisation transitions easily and instantly between large data sets, to more singular points of focus. So it’s nice and flexible.

What’s especially interesting is the dynamic community of users that can share and show off their creativity using this platform – go and have a look!

What We Think

Above all, we’d like to emphasise that D3 is just as much about the artistic, creative possibilities of data visualisation, as it is about communicating practical information to an audience. With tools like this, infographics certainly don’t have to have all the fun.

Similarly, everyone’s familiar with stuffy, boring old pie charts and Powerpoint presentations, but creations on D3 are proof that data visualisation can be inspiring, interesting, and – most importantly – non-coma-inducing!


N.B. For those interested, we’d highly recommend the following as further reading:
Information is Beautiful’ by David McCandless.