I recently received an e-mail from a reader and fellow data visualization consultant named Sue Grist. Although we haven't met, because of this monthly data visualization column, Sue has recognized me as a kindred spirit. Her e-mail was a poignant expression of frustration over the fact that data visualization often gets a bad name because of how poorly it is understood and implemented. Bad data visualization implementations don't get used. They leave a sour taste in the mouth and shape the opinion that data visualization is all hype, all eye candy and no substance. Any technology, no matter how promising, is useless if people don't understand it. Data visualization, which is often misleadingly marketed as something that anyone can do without any special skills, is a vivid example of this.

Here's an excerpt of what Sue had to say: I want clients to be better consumers. I want to educate them that they need to shop carefully for visualization support. They need to focus first on hiring a consultant or firm that is qualified in the area of data visualization. Right now, I think too often clients focus first on purchasing a tool with a known name or large market share. Good tools in unqualified hands result in bad visualizations and a bad name for all of us in the data visualization business.

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