The Top Trends in Data Visualization for 2018


8 trends around data science, data visualization, data stories, AI, and machine learning.

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The Top Trends in Data Visualization for 2018

Data science is a rapidly growing career path and leaders across all industries  fields  and governments are putting their best minds to the task of harnessing the power of location data.

As organizations seek to derive greater insights and to present their findings with greater clarity  the premium placed on high quality data visualization will only continue to increase.

Here are some of the trends related to data visualization that we are keeping an eye on in 2018.


The State of Spatial Data Science in Enterprise 2020


1. Data visualization is not just for data scientists anymore.

IBM projects a 39% increase in demand for data scientists and data engineers over the next three years. But employers are coming to expect a familiarity and comfort with data across their organizations  not just from their scientists and engineers.

Because of this trend  we can expect the continued growth of tools and resources geared towards making the data visualization field and its benefits more accessible to everyone.


Ferdio Data Viz

For example  someone new to the field may turn to Ferdio’s  a compendium of over 100 visualization models. The infographic agency put this resource together to "inform and inspire" those looking to build their own data visualizations. Other services like Google’s Data Studio allow users to easily create visualizations and dashboards without coding skills.

2. The increase of both open and private data helps enrich data visualizations.

In order to gain greater insight into the actions and patterns of their customers and constituents  organizations need to turn to sources outside of their own proprietary data.

Luckily for data scientists  more and more data becomes available every day  and we can expect the trend of increased availability to continue into 2018.  the United States Federal Government’s open data site  boasts data sets from 43 US states  47 cities and counties and 53 other nations. In June  Forbes identified 85 US cities that have their own data portals.

We recently published a list of 40 open data projects  from transportation and accountability to performance management and IoT.





The example above visualizes open data about Cholera outbreaks from WHO using custom iconography and color palette.

In addition to open data sources  new marketplaces  data exchanges such as the new Salesforce Data Studio (announced in September 2017) as well as resources such as CARTO’s Data Observatory  will provide data scientists and visualizers even more opportunities to enhance their data and draw new and actionable insights.

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3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning allows data professionals to work smarter not harder.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the buzz words du jour in the tech world and that includes their use in the field of data science and visualization.

Salesforce has certainly highlighted their use  advertising their Einstein AI  which will aid users in discovering patterns in their data.


Einstein AI

Microsoft has recently announced similar enhancements to Excel  expected in 2018. Their "Insights" upgrade includes the creation of new data types in the program. For example  the Company Name data type will automatically pull in such information as location and population data using their Bing API. They are also introducing Machine Learning models that will assist with data manipulation. These updates will empower Excel users  already familiar with the programs data visualization tools  with data sets that are automatically enhanced.

4. The "interactive map" is becoming a standard medium for data visualizations.

Data visualization  as a term  can refer to any visual representation of data. However  with the growing amount and prevalence of location data  more and more data visualizations require an interactive map to fully tell a story with data.

We recently shared 80 examples of data visualizations using location data and maps.

Data Visualizations


Becoming a Spatial Data Scientist


5. There is a new focus on "data stories."

Creating a single data visualization can have great impact. But  more companies are beginning to create custom website experiences that tell a more complete story using many types of data and visualization methods.

Enigma Labs released the world’s first Sanctions Tracker earlier this year  a data story that contextualizes and communicates over twenty years of U.S. sanctions data as meaningful information. Look in 2018 for more custom experiences that use maps and other mediums of data visualization to communicate complex issues.


6. New color schemes and palettes for visually impaired.

The color of 2017  according to Pantone  is "Greenery " a lighter shade of green conveying a sense of rejuvenation  restoration  and renewal. The long-term color forecast  however  is a return to primary colors like red  green  and blue  colors often appearing in country flags  because "[i]n complex times we look to restricted  uncompromising pallets."

Regardless of trends  it’s important to understand the fundamentals of choosing color palettes for your data visualization. Once you understand the fundamentals  you can start exploring other palette options and incorporating design trends. Check out Invision’s post on Finding The Right Color Palletes for Data Visualizations.

CARTO also offers an open-source set of colors specifically designed for data visualizations using maps  called CARTO Colors.


CARTO Colors

It's important to consider that about 4.5% of the world’s population is color-blind. Data visualization designers especially need to considering building visualizations with color-blind color palettes  like those provided by ColorBrewer.

7. Data visualizations around current events are dominating the social conversation.

Data visualizations for social sharing will also take a "less is more" approach for the remainder of the year.

Interactive data visualizations  and maps specifically  offer a new format that is great for social sharing. Marketers can quickly build maps using available location data from social platforms or open data portals.

Below  one marketer created a data visualization using Twitter traffic from the Game of Thrones season seven premiere and generated thousands of views:





In focusing in on the three main contenders for the Iron Throne  this data visualization quickly and efficiently tells the viewer that Cersei Lannister drove the most twitter activity in the twenty four hours following the premiere. A marketer could do a similar analysis using branded keyword data.

8. Journalists are striking back with data visualizations.

The Oxford English Dictionary selected "post-truth" as the word of 2016. Indeed  following the U.S. presidential election  data analysts  and journalists have been on the defensive from opponents labeling their reporting "fake news."

But 2017 is the year data analysts and journalists strike back with the help of data visualizations.

The editors of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) released an editorial  titled "America’s Growing News Deserts " in spring 2017. The article featured the interactive data visualization below that maps the dearth of local newspapers across the country.





This data visualization  exhibiting the first trend discussed above  is not merely a pretty representation of data. The editors are soliciting readers to contribute to this living resource on "news deserts."

"We think that a complete  accurate map of America’s news deserts is important " the editors explain  "as we ponder the future of local news  and we want to build on what we’ve started here."

Expect to see many  many more data visualizations from media sources throughout 2017 and beyond.

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