Our work lives today overflow with data and the ability to effectively communicate insights from raw numbers has become increasingly valuable. When done right, data storytelling can transform your raw numbers into meaningful and impactful stories that drive action and change.
Data storytelling, or data visualization, is the art of representing complex data sets in a visual format, making it easier for people to understand and interpret information. By using charts, graphs, and interactive visuals, we can communicate complex concepts quickly and efficiently.
According to MIT, 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.
Not only does data visualization enhance comprehension, but it also helps to engage and persuade audiences. We are visual creatures and naturally drawn to images. By presenting information visually, we can better capture attention and make our message more memorable and impactful.
To start transforming dull spreadsheets and boring statistics into compelling visuals that engage and captivate audiences from the Board chair to industry reporters, read on.
Types of Data Visualization
Line Charts and Area Charts: These charts are used to depict trends over time. Especially useful for showing changes and patterns in data.
Bar Charts and Column Charts: Perfect for comparing different categories or groups. They make it easy to understand the differences and relationships between data points.
Pie Charts and Donut Charts: These circular charts are great for representing proportions and percentages. Often used to show the distribution of a whole into its parts.
Maps and Geographic Visualizations: These visuals use maps to display data related to specific geographic locations. Excellent for showcasing regional or global patterns and trends.
Infographics: Infographics are a combination of text, images, and data visualizations. A powerful storytelling tool that can convey complex information in a visually appealing and concise manner.
Principles for Effective and Strong Data Visualizations
- Simplify and Highlight: Remove clutter from your visuals. Keep the design clean and focused on the key insights you want to communicate. Make it easy for your audience to identify the key insights and take away the main message.
- Select Appropriately: Choose the right type of visual base for your data. Consider the story you want to tell. Use visuals that enhance understanding and make the data more relatable.
- Maintain Consistency: Decide and re-use consistent colors, fonts, and styles throughout your visualizations for a cohesive and professional look. This helps your audience navigate the information more easily.
- Test, Revise, Repeat: Don’t be afraid to experiment and test different visualizations. Gather feedback from your audience to improve their effectiveness.
The use of data visualization can shorten business meetings by 24%.
Examples of Compelling Data Visualizations
Many professional organizations and trade associations use data storytelling to share their research findings and data with their members and the public.
American Heart Association: Created several infographics to educate the public about heart health and disease prevention. One of their infographics, titled “Life’s Simple 7,” provides simple and actionable steps that individuals can take to improve their heart health.
National Restaurant Association: Creates infographics to highlight trends in the restaurant industry, such as the increasing popularity of plant-based menu items. These infographics are useful for restaurant owners and operators who want to stay up-to-date on industry trends and make informed business decisions.
Retail Gift Card Association: Utilizes data to show and tell their impact and highlights of being a member on their about page.
High-quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than plain text.
Tools for Data Visualization
There are numerous tools and software available to help you create stunning data visualizations.
- Tableau is a powerful data visualization tool that allows you to create interactive dashboards, reports, and charts. Offers a wide range of features and customization options.
- Microsoft Power BI enables you to create interactive visualizations and reports and integrates with other Microsoft products, making it a popular choice.
- Google Looker Studio allows you to create custom reports and dashboards using data from various sources and is great for collaboration.
- Infogram, an online tool, offers a wide range of templates and design options for creating infographics and data visualizations. User-friendly and requires no coding skills.
By presenting data visually, we can enhance understanding, engage audiences, and drive action. Remember to keep your visuals simple, choose appropriate types of visualization, and highlight your key points. Remember the whole point and benefit is to guide your audience through the information, leading to a clear and impactful conclusion.