Posted by Teri Sun

If I had to pick, I would tell you that I’m more of a left-brain thinker than right. I was ready to dive into an art degree in college when the practical side of my brain told me that I had a better sense for business. But I’ve always had a passion for the arts, which has put me at odds with this polarization. Knowing vs believing. Reality vs imagination. Words vs images. Where do I belong?

Recent developments in data visualization are now confirming my place in this right vs left World. I’m in the middle.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a surge of infographics in the B2C and B2B space, an increasing number of business analytics solutions from software companies, and a number of data visualization experiments from individual developers and large corporations including GE.

I attribute the rising popularity of data visualization to the fact that left brain thinkers are finally realizing what righties have known all along: you can convey information in a much more meaningful way with pictures as opposed to words. The word “data visualization” is itself, a blend of the left and the right. 

But infographics, and even some of today’s most interesting visualizations, are only scratching the surface.

What really excites me, as a “middle-brain” thinker, is how visualization is changing how we approach typical left-brain activities. Consider the recent announcement from Pinterest positioning itself as a visual search platform.

As marketers, we’ve been trained that people search for a specific keyword on Google and we can target that person with PPC ads. But what happens when that person doesn’t know what they’re looking for? Enter visualsearch – allowing people to discover new things that they may not have even known they were looking for in the first place.

But to fulfill its vision of a visual search platform, Pinterest will need to evolve beyond its never-ending grid of semi-related pictures.

Just the other day, I was searching for inspiration on Pinterest to redecorate my home office. Every time I clicked something I liked, I landed on another person’s “home inspiration” page, which had 1 or 2 other office images buried in a scrolling page of images that I had no interest in. It seemed that as I got deeper in my search, I was getting further from what I was looking for.

Pinterest might learn a thing or two from – one of the first visual search tools I can remember. This tool allows you to quickly see synonyms in an interactive “web.” When you start to think of information in terms of networks, it really starts to get exciting for “middle brain” thinkers like myself.

Imagine if Pinterest used all of the metadata about its Pins (and maybe even image recognition software) to intelligently display them in a network? In my search for home office inspiration, similarly decorated spaces would appear near each other. In just one glance – and without ever scrolling – I could identify an entire cluster of Pins in the style I was looking for.

But a network is just one approach. A recent experiment from British Airways, helps you find your next vacation destination by selecting inspirational images from a Pinterest-style feed. Whichever format Pinterest ultimately evolves to, its making a very smart middle-brain move: allowing users to visually identify connections – and ultimately, discover.

Topics: B2Me, Copywriting