Julie Rodriguez, an Alumna of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design (Industrial Design ’99), has recently co-authored a new book on data visualizations with a focus on finance and business. Rodriguez’s book, Visualizing Financial Data, provides a fresh take on data visualizations with an extensive set of case studies that contrast traditional uses of charts with alternatives that provide more effective representations of the data to produce greater insights.
“Many data visualizations books provide readers with historical collections and a retrospective analysis of charts and graphs that include a point of view of the benefits to each solution,” said Rodriguez. “Some mix in a collection of recent work across various domains that the author selects to fit their narrative. Other books provide a list of dos and don'ts, cognitive descriptions of how we perceive visuals, or how to use certain applications to create a chart.”
“However few take the perspective of producing new types of information displays that replace existing solutions. “
The use of domain driven case studies in Visualizing Financial Data is what sets it apart from other books on the subject.
The case studies include the display of quantitative data that follow the principles of good information design. While the cases studies are centered on displaying financial data, other domains can reuse the designs and repurpose the visualization techniques to fit their own needs.
“As an example, one of the case studies provides an alternative technique to represent cash flows,” said Rodriguez about the book, which she co-authored with Piotr Kaczmarek. “If you abstract the concept of cash flows as a series of negative and positive numbers then you can see it’s potential to reuse it to represent another scenario - like the calories you consume and use throughout the day. This example includes a design system for aggregate and detail data of the negative and positive flows.”
“At a time when businesses need to transform their data into actionable assets, the collection of ideas in the book can be used to improve the way we think about our data.”
Rodriguez says that her focus on improving the way we interact with information aims to create optimal user experiences for people. Her work includes design processes for services and product experiences which combines online and offline experiences and how each one influences the other.
“I often find myself being grateful for my background in design,” added Rodriguez on why Designers are vital to a topic like data visualization. “A designer is part engineer, part researcher, part artist, part scientist, part inventor, part dreamer, and part realist. Designers have an eye for aesthetics and a drive to make an experience interesting and enjoyable. We hypothesize and often test our ideas out with people that are intended to use our inventions.”
“Designers take on challenges to reinvent a solution and push the boundaries of what we see needs improvement,” continued Rodriguez. “We bring all of those aspects of our work together to communicate information and create knowledge. As designers, we are trained to combine both the form and the function with a dash of joy and interest into our work.”
Rodriguez credits her time at the School of Design for preparing her for her current career and her work on Visualizing Financial Data.
“The School of Design taught me fundamental principles that I use in my day to day.,” said Rodriguez. “Learning how to see through a lens with Charlee Brodsky, how to categorize and organize items with Karen Moyer, how to draw perspective with Mark Mentzer, how to create models with Thomas Merriman, how to create sculptural beauty with Joe Ballay, and understand how people work with things with Stephen Stadelmeier are just a few examples of influential coursework I still value.”
“Today, I use those teachings to evaluate and critique work just as much as I use it to generate and produce my own work.”
Rodriguez added that the School of Design truly shaped her thought process, work ethic, and strong belief that good design matters and it is the job of Designers to lead the endeavor of contributing to good design.
“Designers can change the way people understand information and experience a product,” concluded Rodriguez. “Because we are at the frontlines of designing information displays and product interfaces, we have the ability to rethink those displays and create new standards. We have the ability to influence our colleagues and clients and make a positive impact in our communities and beyond.”
“My time at CMU taught me that although my heart is in my work, it is our work as designers that make it into the hands and minds of others.“
Julie Rodriguez is an experience designer at Sapient with skills in user research, analysis, and design for complex systems. She has patented her work in data visualizations, compiled a data visualization pattern library (www.vizipedia.com), and publishes industry articles on user experience and data analysis and visualization.