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What is visualization?

Visualization is a way to communicate using images. We continuously use visual information to control our motor function and gather information. As soon as light strikes our retinas, a process begins in our brains to interpret what we see and draw conclusions about how we should act or react. Therefore visual information is extremely important in interactions with the world around us and in transferring knowledge. 

A visualization could be a hand-drawn sketch or an image created using software. Various types of diagrams or charts are used to make large quantities of data understandable, in which case you're talking about information visualization. Visualization is used for purposes including explaining planned changes to urban environments, statistical relationships and medical interventions. It’s an important tool with great democratic and educational potential.

Today’s powerful computers make it possible to create spectacular visualizations. It’s possible to travel inside the human body and make voyages of discovery to other galaxies or into the ocean depths.  

The need to show and illustrate information to others has existed as long as the human race, from early cave paintings in southern Europe, via the first maps to today’s visualizations of complex information in various areas such as medicine, geography and computer science. 


  • creates bridges across barriers
  • simplifies and clarifies
  • creates a force for change
  • illustrates what has been imagined and measured

Would you like to know more about visualization?

We have a unique network and broad expertise in the field of visualization. Visualization is used today in many different industries such as health care, urban planning and computer science. Contact us for a lecture on visualization or a study visit. 

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Better decisions with the support of visualization

Visualization allows different individuals to see the same view of a plan or event. This makes it possible to communicate across barriers such as gender, culture and age. However, it’s important to understand that visualization can also be deceptive. It's also possible to create attractive visualizations from bad or incomplete data, so don't forget to apply critical thinking to the source when you are looking at visualizations.  

Thanks to rapid advances in hardware and software, we've also become better at understanding how our vision actually works and how we humans interpret and analyze images. The core of visualization is that we try to divide the workload between humans and computers. Computers calculate quickly and accurately, and people are good at seeing connections and analyzing images which can lead to better results. Therefore visualization is important in numerous areas. Visualization creates an opportunity for multiple parties to see the same thing in front of them. For example clear time efficiency benefits were realized in making building decisions when the move was made from 2D to 3D drawings in the decision process.

Contributes to innovation and democracy

Visualization was recognized as a scientific discipline about 25 years ago, and since then the research community has been relatively unified on the definition and importance of visualization. To put it simply, visualization involves the illustration of complex, multidimensional relationships through modes of expression adapted to human vision. Visualization can be done through images, diagrams and animations. A more academic definition is: the use of computer-supported interactive, visual representations of (abstract) data to amplify cognition.

Visualization is an area that is expanding extremely rapidly, where the growing realization of the advantages of communicating with the aid of images goes hand-in-hand with the greater technological possibilities to create interactive and dynamic presentations. By developing and using visualizations, we can simplify and illustrate relationships that are hidden in large quantities of data or beyond the reach of our senses. Today, many fields of research depend on these powerful and interactive visualizations, and large planning and community development projects are unthinkable today without visualization if citizens are to be able to participate in the democratic process. It's important not to stop in our tracks, but rather to continue developing our knowledge of visualizations, since they provide greater opportunities to efficiently analyze and illustrate quantities of data that can contribute to decisive explanations of complex relationships and abstract theories. Visualization can contribute through this type of process to greater benefits to society, new potential innovations, and tangible cooperation between research, companies, organizations, government authorities and the general public.