As sophisticated as business intelligence tools have become over the years, when it comes time to actually present the intelligence or information as a report or in summary form, most of the time you'll still find yourself looking at traditional graphical tables (pie charts, line graphs and bar charts). Maybe they'll be drawn creatively (e.g., USA Today's uncanny ability to turn ordinary bar charts into pictures of things such as piggy banks, toasters and airplane engines) – but they're still basically bar charts.

The problem with this sort of tabular presentation of information is not just that it lacks pizzazz. The problem is actually that some kinds of information are so rich and complex that they cannot be captured effectively in two-dimensional ways. Some information cries out for a more distinctive visual treatment, one that presents information more powerfully.

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