Saturday July 22nd 2017

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How to Tell a Story with Data

An excellent visualization, according to Edward Tufte, expresses “complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.” I would add that an excellent visualization also tells a story through the graphical depiction of statistical information. As I discussed in an earlier post, visualization in its educational or confirmational role is really a dynamic form of persuasion. Few forms of communication are as persuasive as a compelling narrative. To this end, the visualization needs to tell a story to the audience. Storytelling helps the viewer gain insight from the data. (For a great example, how much do you think steroids have influenced baseball?)

So how does a visual designer tell a story with a visualization? The analysis has to find the story that the data supports. Traditional journalism does this all the time, and journalists have become very good at storytelling with visualization via infographics. In that vein, here are some journalistic strategies on telling a good story that apply to data visualizations as well.

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