When VLAIO meets data visualization

By now you’ve probably heard about data visualization so many times that you are wondering why do we still talk about it. Data visualization is in fact almost everywhere and today I want to explain what exactly it is, why it is important and what our team was busy with for the past few months.

Before starting this project, I, of course, knew what data was, and I saw data being visualized. But I never put those two words together. During the project, we used these words – data visualization – so much that I feel like I became an expert in it. And it seems like data visualization is as a miracle cure for everything.

For this blog post, I interviewed our coach Maarten Lambrechts who is a data designer and a visualization specialist.


So what is it exactly and why is it important?

Data visualization literally means transforming data into a visual form. It is common knowledge, that people process images faster than text, therefore, it is much easier to understand visualized data than data in tables and spreadsheets. Generally speaking, it allows us to spot interesting bits and to get insights out of the data.

“Our society keeps on getting more data-driven and everyday data is determining our lives to a greater extent. Understanding data and being able to work with data becomes more important and data visualization can help us get a grip on the data”, –  says our coach Maarten.

There are several advantages to data visualization such as identifying patterns, relationships, and trends in different business activities easier, interacting with data directly and learning new information much faster. Moreover, data visualization allows people to access a large amount of data in eye-pleasing and understandable visuals.

“A lot of people come into contact with data visualization in their professional lives, as data plays an import role in companies, science, governments, and other organizations. But the general public is also exposed to data visualizations as many newsrooms have adopted data visualization to communicate numbers in their reporting”, – Maarten adds.

The progress

So what have we done during this project with VLAIO? Well, the answer is easy we visualized data that was given to our team by VLAIO themselves.

In the span of two months, the members of the team were able to create a tool called VLAIO Connect that allows VLAIO to monitor connections between different companies and organizations and VLAIO themselves. You can read more about VLAIO and their vision in this blog post.

The developed platform is composed of four pages:

  • Partner overlap
  • Interaction sequence
  • Company timeline
  • Data import

Partner overlap

The columns show the number of companies which have had an interaction with the partners specified by the black dots below those columns. 

Screenshot 2018-12-13 at 10.14.22

Interaction sequence

The visualization provided on this page is called a “Sunburst”. The inner circle shows the companies’ first interaction. The wider the circle piece, the more interaction there was. The circle on the second level shows the number of interactions for each partner that followed the first interaction. The further we go in the level, the further we go in the interaction sequence.

It is also possible to click on a higher level (eg. on level 3) to see the further interactions.

Screenshot 2018-12-13 at 10.14.31

Company timeline

In this page, it is possible to select a company and see the interactions it has had on a timeline.

Screenshot 2018-12-13 at 10.14.39

Data import

It is possible to import new data sheets via this page. The instructions on how the file should be are indicated. If the sheet does not follow the required structure, or if values are missing, an error message is provided with an explanation of where the problem is. The user can then modify the structure or complete the missing values before re-uploading it. If all the requirements are met, a confirmation message is displayed, and all the visualizations will adapt to this newly imported data.

Screenshot 2018-12-13 at 10.14.11

And all of it while studying! Great job, guys!



Sreenivasan, S. (2015, March 16). 4 Business Benefits of Data Visualization. Retrieved from Analytic Bridge: https://www.analyticbridge.datasciencecentral.com/profiles/blogs/4-business-benefits-of-data-visualization

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