I’m a visual learner 1. I use mind-maps to break down complex ideas, I draw on the whiteboard to understand complex systems, I prefer bulleted lists to long emails and I love to use color coding to help with categorization.
That’s why I was blown away by Mike Bostock’s recent blog post about visualizing algorithms:
Algorithms are a fascinating use case for visualization. To visualize an algorithm, we don’t merely fit data to a chart; there is no primary dataset. Instead there are logical rules that describe behavior. This may be why algorithm visualizations are so unusual, as designers experiment with novel forms to better communicate. This is reason enough to study them.
But algorithms are also a reminder that visualization is more than a tool for finding patterns in data. Visualization leverages the human visual system to augment human intellect: we can use it to better understand these important abstract processes, and perhaps other things, too.
As a side note, I really love D3.js – check it out if you’re looking for a versatile library to represent data (static and dynamic datasets, including transitions). It’s more advanced than your typical charting library, but the applications are endless, as you can judge from the examples page.