When I joined Accenture’s Applied Intelligence team, I was surrounded by data scientists and thought: I don’t belong here! I’m a designer!
I graduated with a Bachelor in Design Computing from the University of Sydney and planned to join Accenture Interactive and work closely with Fjord.
But I was put into the Applied Intelligence team. I didn’t know why and had no idea how I could apply my design skills to this area.
But Accenture knew that my skillset was needed here in the analytics team.
Applied Intelligence focuses on data and the consumption of insights into that data. The department is broken down into seven chapters: Strategy & Advisory, Artificial Intelligence, Customer & Marketing Analytics, Operational Analytics, Big Data and AI Platforms. Then we’ve got Design-Led Visualisation and that’s where I come in.
I came across the data visualisation challenge which was a competition run by Accenture Applied Intelligence. Contestants were given a random data set. In this case it was about chocolate - where it was made and the ratings of each bar. The challenge was to create a visualisation to tell a story with that data.
Although I didn’t enter the competition, that’s when I discovered that you can actually be creative with data.
I realised that data visualisation was the simplification of the consumption of insights from data, crafted in a way that anyone can understand it. The way I like to think about data visualisation is the link between data and wisdom and it’s the platform to access both.
Infographics is one common type of data visualisation that might jump to people’s minds. But it’s much more than infographics.
It’s becoming more accessible to everybody
Data visualisation was once solely the domain of data analysts working out trends and presenting reports and charts to execs and business users. But innovative platforms and tools have made it possible for anyone to create a graph or to find an insight. With tools such as Tableau, building graphs to show trends is much easier. One of the key things we try to focus on at Accenture is moving away from static graphs to more interactive data visualisation. So, using these platforms to create more interactive graphs where you can delve into more detail on demand.
It’s all about storytelling
Data visualisation is all about storytelling and creating an experience for the user. In order to do that it includes being able to understand the human perception of design. Understanding colours and shapes and how that creates a better story or helps the user understand what we’re trying to portray to them. It’s easy to build a chart with a tool but to do it well is another thing.
Data visualisation is becoming increasingly popular. We have all this knowledge sitting at our fingertips and data visualisation helps us quickly digest the most relevant information and turn it into wisdom and insights people can actually use. So it’s bridging the gap between technology and humans.
Importance of visual literacy
And that brings us on to the importance of visual literacy in this area. Humans can interpret the meaning of colours and shapes and visual literacy is about understanding how humans interpret visuals. There are certain design principles and elements of design that help gain a better understanding of visual literacy. The tools that are coming out are more and more user friendly and intuitive. But being able to understand the human aspect of design and make technology more humanised will help anyone in this area quite a lot.
Ten months ago when I joined Accenture, I thought I would be part of Accenture Interactive – focused on designing user interfaces and marketing and graphic design. But now, as part of the Applied Intelligence team I’m putting all my design skills to really good use in ways I never would have imagined.