The Rise of the Data Artist in Business

Interview with Justin Langseth, CEO and co-founder of data visualization startup, Zoomdata.

Why is the data artist becoming increasing popular, or needed, in business?

Big data is creating a bigger divide between business and IT, and we’re seeing several big data positions created within businesses to help bridge that gap. While the idea of the data scientist has become deeply rooted in enterprise IT departments, there is a new breed of data professional today—the data artist. As much as organizations need people who can analyze data and draw conclusions from their data, they also need individuals who can paint a picture with that data so that everyone can easily understand the conclusions.

What skills much data artists have to be able to compete in today's job market?

Data artists are just that – artists. They are responsible for using data as paint to construct imaginative representations of the world in their own way. Instead of reconstructing representations of what they see with their eyes, data artists need the ability to create new ways for our eyes to see the massive flows of data within an organization. They need to be able to portray facts, flow, and patterns that are not necessarily visible to the average business decision maker. The visualizations these artists create can be a powerful way to translate terabytes of data into meaningful business information.

How do tools like Hadoop play into the roles and responsibilities of today's data artists?

Tools like Hadoop help us to process large amounts of data, but tomorrow¹s data artists need new tools to use their data paint to create interactive and fresh visual views of otherwise invisible data. They need tools that help us understand the living, breathing nature of data. Data isn’t static, and that means data visualizations shouldn’t be either. Interactive, layered tools that offer real-time visibility into data from all types of data sources are necessary to help data artists reach their full potential.

What would you say are some of the most significant trends driving the data market right now?

The mobile wave is already in full force, but when you think about it, the trend isn’t just about mobile – it’s really about the touch interface. Touch will be the next generation user interface for data. If workers continue to do business computing on touch-screen tablets, then they need to change the way they explore and analyze data on these tablets.

Touch isn’t limited to the 9-inch screen of your iPad. It will eventually span to every screen and every surface around us. This is where it gets exciting for data professionals and businesses everywhere.

Where do you see the data artist role in enterprises in five years? Ten years?

In five years I expect the average business user will develop data artist skills. As the tools to paint with data become easier to use, it will become something that is very intuitive for a human to do. We’ll see more people who have the ability to create visualizations about their businesses, strategic growth plans, projections, and more through data art. It will still require a little ramp-up time but once a user knows the basic concepts, it will become second nature, like riding a bicycle.

Within 10 years I expect every student and business decision maker to be able to create his or her own data art, and do so easily. As data visualization tools improve, analyzing and presenting data through new visual and tactile paradigms will be something that comes completely intuitively to people, like walking and eating.

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Comment by Robin Moldenhauer on May 10, 2013 at 8:21am

I loved your info about the Data Artist role. Im a Business Analyst looking to segue into Big Data Analysis and Visualization...also with MBA/Consulting/Programming/Project Mgmt in my background....trying to decide what my first steps to be i.e. what is the first tool/skillset I should develop in moving towards a Big Data Analyst/Artist role....my goal might eventually be to segue from there into a Big data consultant or even data scientist role since I do have a Math degree....I just haven't to date spent a lot of time on the "statistical' side of my degree but definitely feel I have the aptitude to learn ...the other side of me though is an artist that has always wanted a way to merge my right brain and left brain...I think having the skillset of the Big Data Analyst and Artist together would be perhaps a great way to marry the two brains...Your thoughts?

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