Who spends Sunday at a data visualisation course?
Erm, me as it goes. Call me sad, call me friendless but the Guardian Masterclass was held on a Sunday, I needed to be there, not negotiable.
Why is data and data visualisation playing such a significant role
Especially in a writer’s life. You may well ask. Well, I am afraid of infobesity, if you must know. Data visualisation is the closest thing I can find to a personal trainer for my prose.
What do I mean?
Well, how often do you read a blog? Am I even going to get you this far? Maybe, if I use double readership techniques and whip out a few bullet points, maybe. Here goes
Why does a writer need data?
- Data underpins content. It shows you what people are looking for, what behaviours they exhibit, what they need, what gets shared and basically how crap you are at communicating
- If you talk to Christian Tate designer extraordinaire he’ll say the ultimate infographic is one with no words – gulp!
- Data gives credibility, data allows everyone to work smarter. Ask the right questions and you’ll find some spectacular answers using data
- By mining data and scooping out the story you find other stories you would have never unearthed.
- If you make use of data in a visual way it’s a more sophisticated form of storytelling often offering fresh insights that elude everyone otherwise.
For me, the key moment when a writer can do a little jog of glee is when data needs to be represented so everyone can see the bigger picture. This is why I am immersed in data and why I needed the Guardian Masterclass (on a Sunday, lest I forget!)
So why was I so keen to explore infographics when actually I hate infographics. All those muddy brown colours, stupid fonts, cartoon characters and so much text, I have stopped looking at them. What I really want to create is a thing of beauty. Christian Tate is doing just that.
Data visualization is about synthesis.
Call me a master butcher. I’ll fillet your data to create something fine from a slab of impenetrable meat. For me the possibilities of a true infographic is a representation of a narrative that is immediately clear. It grabs, arrests, stops you in your tracks. It seduces you into spending time when you should be elsewhere. It offers insights and a different way of looking and ultimately understanding. Information is beautiful.
14 ways to a killer infographic or data visualisation
- What you need to visualize data successfully
- A good story underpins all infographics
- You need editorial sensibility and beautiful design that will captivate
- A strong chronological structure
- Concentrate on proportionality and something that makes sense
- Contextualise then add even more context
- Meta-lists contribute to mega stories
- Isolate compelling facts – in fact ‘killer facts are pivotal.’ Rob Orchard
- Every single decision has to help the story along
- Find a compelling narrative
- Isolate your target group and set up an empathy point immediately
- Without an emotional connection there’s no engagement
- Don’t ask too much of people, don’t be too fussy or busy
- Make references and authors clear to add authenticity
The interesting thing is that an infographic needs a headline; it needs a pithy paragraph of text and it needs a story. Yes, it’s like maths has been finally trumped by creative writing (oh, happy day!). Narrative is required to make sense of data. I knew my time would come! Tell a story and your audience will listen, they’ll understand and they’ll stay to the end. We loved picture books, we now have infographics.
I would like to thank Rob Orchard and Christian Tate for their inspiration.
Tags: data, data visualisation