Big data: You're gonna need a better chart

Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created. Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years.

2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

This tells you four things:

  • The amount of data available is huge.
  • It’s going to get even more vast.
  • A spreadsheet table won’t cut it. You need a better way to visualize data.
  • A better way to visualize data will lead to smarter, more accurate insights.

The reason why visualizations are key is because of how our brains have evolved to process what we see. Thirty percent of our cortex is used for visual information, that’s in contrast to only 8% for touch and just 3% for hearing. Our optic nerve, for example, houses millions of fibers, where only about 30,000 exist in our auditory system.

So to really be effective at sharing ideas from this growing amount of data, it’s clear we need to get really good at using data visualizations. Noah Iliinsky, a visualization and interaction designer sums it up perfectly:

"One of the most important benefits of visualization is that it allows us access to huge amounts of data in ways that would not be otherwise possible."

Not every banker can, nor should, be a data scientist, but they should be a data samurai—using well-designed visualizations to slice, cut, and segment data to uncover actionable insights.

Just think about how the comparative performance of a company over time is shown in a pitchbook chart. It includes a complex set of information: valuation multiples, relative performance to historical and estimated numbers, comps data; all of this detail requires some kind of visualization to be properly understood or it would be completely inaccessible to the average viewer.

So, as the amount of data expands, thereby increasing what we could show, our ability to use effective and efficient visualizations to unlock information must also grow.

It’s time to get smart about how to visualize and explain data. It’s time to get a better chart.

Tell me, how are you handling the growing need for data visualizations? Email me at