Some prodigiously talented individuals – such as the Indian mathematician Ramanujan, for example – have always able to extract meaning from vast arrays of data. Everyone else needs pictures.
Stephen Few, whose book Show me the Numbers* is the bible for visualisation specialists, puts it like this: “It’s almost impossible to spot and make sense of patterns without pictures. Patterns that remain hidden in a table of numbers are made visible by the right visualisation. Most models of abstract information work best with simple 2D visualisations that can be viewed and manipulated on a computer.”
The advent of big data as the product of modern business intelligence systems is forcing visualisation on companies big and small.