Back Through the Looking Glass: What Works in Data Visualization

Session Title

Back Through the Looking Glass: What Works in Data Visualization


Alan Baumgarten, Sabre Airline Solutions

Session Type: Presentation

As application developers, we have learned to do a pretty good job of translating human problems into data — a language that machines can be taught to understand. And we do a good job of creating insanely complex algorithms and business logic that can process data and turn it into something different and, hopefully useful. But it is still in the language of machines. It is still data. Where we frequently drop the ball, however, is in turning the new data back into something that is native to human understanding and perception. In short, information goes in through the looking glass, but it has a difficult time getting back through the looking glass. In this presentation we will take a close look at some of the human constraints that help or hinder understanding. We will discover why visualizations are better than raw data, but also why some data visualizations succeed and others fail. And we will examine the role of interactivity and how contemporary Web applications are challenging the traditional rules of what works and what doesn’t.


Alan Baumgarten is the lead Interaction Designer for Sabre Airline Solutions, located near Dallas. He specializes in user-centered design of enterprise applications for expert users who often face enormously complex challenges in a turbulent industry. Alan has presented at industry conferences around the world. Before moving to Sabre he led an Information Architecture team at Candesa, an interactive agency in Utah, as well as the Chief Instructional Designer for WebLessons, an international eLearning solutions provider for K12. Alan is the author/co-author of twelve books.