Embedded within a set of data lie various stories waiting to be told. Not just in any way, but with the right method, to a receptive audience, highlighting the necessary information. Told correctly, a story fulfills its purpose and can be properly understood.
But what is “correct”? How does one translate the essence of the data into stories worth telling, listening to, and sharing? By understanding how your audience learns best. In most cases, this is through data visualization. Simply put, data visualization allows you to gain the optimum attention from your audience by respecting their natural fondness for certain cues.
Firstly, data visualization turns complex data into palatable material for the audience. Visualizations make it easier for people to recognize patterns and find exceptions while interpreting the data at a faster pace. Translating complicated data into simple and big picture concepts can be especially useful when dealing with major decisions, such as policy creation.
Furthermore, data informs our choices and impacts our lives far more than we realize, therefore making it necessary to accurately understand and process data. In fact, with 90% of the data in the world today been created in the last two years alone, coupled with the fact that we receive five times as much information as we did in 1986, there’s an even greater need to understand the data we’re being fed, in order to make clear-headed decisions that benefit everyone.
Next, data visualization encourages you to pick the best elements for your storytelling experience. As writer Henry Green once said, “The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” The act of creating an easily digestible data visual forces you to sieve through and condense mountains of data, and in the process also helping you better comprehend the information before presenting it.
Lastly, every piece of data has a unique story to tell. Your duty is to find it, then get people to listen to it through using compelling visualizations. However, being faced with so much data can be overwhelming. The easiest way to start is to determine the key message of your story, then which of the six basic picture types conveys your message best: portrait, chart, map, timeline, flowchart, and equation.
Ultimately, data visualization shouldn’t be seen as another gimmicky marketing tool. Instead, as the fundamental way industries should strive towards interpreting crucial, but often convoluted, information.
For more information on why data visualization is critical for your business, read Why Data Visualizations Are More Valuable Than Your Business Thinks and download the Data Storytelling Handbook.