Data Visualization usages during the Australian federal election

If Australia’s federal election result – the first hung parliament since 1940 – has taught us anything, it’s that reluctance to act and indecision gets you nowhere.

But what else have we learnt from this otherwise forgettable display of shallow catch-cries and me-too-ism?

At Yellowfin, we realized that perhaps the only positive lesson to be taken from this debacle, was that the use of visual technologies can be a powerful ally for explaining, conveying and consolidating ideas, trends, goals and projections.

During the election campaign, a range of media and political parties used graphical representations of key information and data, in varying forms, to convey various economic, environmental and parliamentary concepts. Sadly we have none of these at hand but we do have an example from Igloo  that looks to explain the key policy differences between the parties.

igloo election infographic

When it came to election night that’s when the numbers really started to come into their own. TV channels used the now standard 3D animation to demonstrate current and projected distribution of lower-house seats. Looks pretty but lets be honest hard to interpret. This example below from the Australian.

Seat graphic

One of the best visual displays for an election we feel is the electorate map, and the best example of this this time round was on The Age web site. Using google with polygon overlays. We really like that rather relying on tool tips The Age had a side panel which provided details for each electorate. Really easy to use and a great way to add in additional data.

The Age - Election Map

Proving that simple is often the best, the ABC’s tabular display of the election result showed the swing, seats won, in doubt etc. No graphic could display this much data in as little space.  Well done to the ABC team.

ABC Table

Compare this to similar data we saw in the Australian and you can see the difference.  One the use of pie/doughnut charts does not provide much clarity in a race this tight.  But this is just all over the place and hard to interpret.

The Australian

If this was not enough then the animated graphic found at news.com.au proves yet again that animation, whilst pretty, does not add a lot of value unless you want to re-live election night over and over again in some sort of crazy ground hog day – but without the wit of Bill Murray.  Can’t see Julia wanting to download her own copy of this.

News.com.au Animated Results

But data visualization doesn’t have to be complicated. Disputably, the best use of graphics throughout the entire campaign was highlighted by the ABC’s advertising insights program The Gruen . Labor’s use of a simple bar graph, in a singular free-to-air 30-second spot comparing Australia’s level of debt to other OECD nations, was hailed on Gruen Nation as the most effective visualization of the campaign. We couldn’t agree more. The comparison was so simple, so stark, and so effective.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well it all goes to show how data visualization is becoming more pervasive and that for this reason data visualization in the business world is essential.

Having access to world-class Business Intelligence (BI) solution means fewer blurry-eyed slack-jawed seat-warmers at important meetings and presentations. Employees will be engaged by a range of insightful and relevant chart types including bar & column charts, line & area charts, pie charts, special purpose charts, combination charts, map visualizations and meters & gauges.

Data visualization tools helps to:

  • Make complex information and abstract ideas more understandable and tangible
  • Connect existing knowledge with new ideas
  • Improve information absorption and retention
  • Provide a framework from which future analysis, planning, reporting and discussion can be made
  • Focus discussion leading to better understanding and information interpretation as trends, relationships and patterns are more recognizable

Increased data literacy – the ability to identify and explain trends, patterns and answer questions by gathering, analyzing, interpreting and presenting data – enables management to reach steadfast and timely conclusion and recommendations based on that data analysis. And to achieve this, quality data visualization capabilities are a non-negotiable must.

You see, the election has taught us something useful – great data visualization is indispensable in any situation.

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