Presented By O'Reilly and Cloudera
Make Data Work
Feb 17–20, 2015 • San Jose, CA

What Designers and Data Scientists Can Learn from Each Other

Danyel Fisher (, Miriah Meyer (University of Utah)
11:30am–12:10pm Friday, 02/20/2015
Design & Interfaces
Location: LL21 B
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When we look at many of the data visualizations posted on the web, it becomes quickly apparent that they are produced with a broad variety of tools. Inconsistent sizes for the same percentage in charts, for example, suggest that the chart was created with Illustrator, not with Tableau. We—trained in computer science—carried out a study to understand how designers and data scientists vary in the ways that they create visualizations.

We found a number of illuminating differences: designers sketched by hand far more; they interacted with data very differently; and they had much more patience for manual data encoding than data scientists.

These two groups suggest that many of the tools we have today are too rigid, and guide us through visualizations in one particular way or another. We call for tools that let designers more easily manipulate data—and that let data scientists more flexibly explore it. With today’s tools, we call for data scientists to push back from the keyboard and doodle on paper to get to know the possibilities buried within their data.

This work is adapted from academic work carried out at Microsoft Research.

Photo of Danyel Fisher

Danyel Fisher

Danyel Fisher is a Senior Researcher in information visualization and human-computer interaction at Microsoft Research’s VIBE group. His research focuses on ways to help users interact with data more easily. His recent work has looked at ways to make big data analytics faster and more interactive with incremental visualization. This is a core design principle of “Tempe”, a big data analytics and exploration project at Microsoft Research. Danyel received his MS from UC Berkeley, and his PhD from UC Irvine.

Photo of Miriah Meyer

Miriah Meyer

University of Utah

Miriah Meyer is an associate professor in the School of Computing at the University of Utah, where she runs the Visualization Design Lab. Her research focuses on the design of visualization systems for helping analysts and researchers make sense of complex data. Miriah was named a University of Utah distinguished alumni, a TED fellow, and a PopTech science fellow and has been included on MIT Technology Review’s TR35 list of the top young innovators.