Who spends Sunday at a data visualisation course?

This is taken from http://m.appleseednetwork.eu/3-tips-for-engaging-online-communities-with-data-visualization/

This is taken from http://m.appleseednetwork.eu/3-tips-for-engaging-online-communities-with-data-visualization/





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.



An example of making data simple and easy to understand. Thanks to http://boingboing.net/2009/12/11/superb-data-visualiz.html. This is govt spending made easy.



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.


How to tell another story Christian Tate http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/showcase/389-turning-the-table



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

  1. What you need to visualize data successfully
  2. A good story underpins all infographics
  3. You need editorial sensibility and beautiful design that will captivate
  4. A strong chronological structure
  5. Concentrate on proportionality and something that makes sense
  6. Contextualise then add even more context
  7. Meta-lists contribute to mega stories
  8. Isolate compelling facts – in fact ‘killer facts are pivotal.’          Rob Orchard
  9. Every single decision has to help the story along
  10. Find a compelling narrative
  11. Isolate your target group and set up an empathy point immediately
  12. Without an emotional connection there’s no engagement
  13. Don’t ask too much of people, don’t be too fussy or busy
  14. 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.

Further Reading

Tools to make infographics easier

 Big Data Using Smart Big Data Bernard Marr

20 great visualisation tools









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