Seeing data: is your picture really worth a thousand words?

Data visualisations are an increasingly popular way to present research to non-expert audiences. But while pretty, interactive charts and graphs are sure to attract attention, how do you know they are really getting your message across? Staff at the Migration Observatory (part of COMPAS, the University's Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society) decided there was only one way to find out - ask. As part of the Seeing Data project they used international migration as a topical case study for exploring how visualisations of complex data are produced, received, and understood: and tested these with members of the public through in-depth focus groups.

The Seeing Data project's website of written and video resources to help non-experts develop their ability to make sense of data visualisations. A key feature is 'Rate these visualisations!', an activity which allows visitors to rate the same visualisations as the focus groups.


Consider the aims, rationale and potential political context of a visualisation before you embark on the design process.

– Mikal Mast, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society

Digital case studies:

Case study

Migration Observatory project explores how the public makes sense of visualisations


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