A general method for exploring multivariate data by comparing different estimates of multivariate scatter is presented. The method is based on the eigenvalue-eigenvector decomposition of one scatter matrix relative to another. In particular, it is shown that the eigenvectors can be used to generate an affine invariant co-ordinate system for the multivariate data. Consequently, we view this method as a method for "invariant co-ordinate selection". By plotting the data with respect to this new invariant co-ordinate system, various data structures can be revealed. For example, under certain independent components models, it is shown that the invariant co- ordinates correspond to the independent components. Another example pertains to mixtures of elliptical distributions. In this case, it is shown that a subset of the invariant co-ordinates corresponds to Fisher's linear discriminant subspace, even though the class identifications of the data points are unknown. Some illustrative examples are given. Copyright (c) 2009 Royal Statistical Society.