Telling a Story With Data and Visualization
Humans are visual creatures and storytellers by nature. The beauty of excellent content is that it has the ability to paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind, just as truly effective visuals should tell a story. When marrying the two, marketers harness the power of storytelling with visuals to make data fully digestible.
The way in which businesses deliver and distribute graphics to their given audience can determine the overall brand perception. Visuals are concise. They have the power to tell a brand’s story, or explain new features and products without amounting to excessive content.
For visual learners, storytelling through illustrative data and infographics creates meaningful space for information that might otherwise go unnoticed. Marketers know that data can be found virtually everywhere. It is how we choose to interpret it, and in turn, how we go about sharing that information that really counts. The idea behind data visualization is that the same information could be written about endlessly, or it could be illustrated. Truly effective data visualization can appear in a litany of different ways and should successfully communicate even the most mundane of data to any audience. Data that may normally exist solely on a spreadsheet has the opportunity to come to life through visuals when properly executed. It is the ability to condense and share information that makes visuals so effective. If a picture is worth a thousand words, think of how easily communicated a single piece of data can be in pictorial form.
Once the informational architecture is determined, design plays a major role in its execution. Complexities of information can often be difficult to communicate through written language. When parsed apart, however, many points of data would be better visualized. That is where both infographics and data visualizations come into play. Compelling infographics, when partnered with written content, can be incredibly successful in viewer retention. Infographics are effective in answering business specific questions, and making hard-facts completely digestible. They are designed for shareability. Infographics are quite simply where data meets design. They work to establish brand identity for a company’s web presence, and across the web.
Cherry picking the right form of data is like curating an art collection. When defining data, it is important to gain valuable insights from, and determine which metrics of data matter most. Communicating the right data through visualization is key. Visual data can depict growth, unique site visits specific to certain marketing campaigns, the success of your marketing efforts, and its effect on different populations and target audiences. The job of data visualization and infographics alike is to simplify the message being delivered. Stories can too easily become lost on the audience when graphs require them to do too much work of their own.
By integrating visuals and written content, both sides of the brain are actively working to comprehend the information being presented. Studies have found that images can improve learning by up to 400 percent. The viewer’s attention is being boosted, and the rate at which they are absorbing the information is infinitely faster. In turn, Instagram (an image-based platform with supportive text) has grown exponentially while Twitter (a text platform with visual content limitations) has declined. It is for this reason that infographics, rather than language-based content, tends to go viral.
Journalist Malcolm Gladwell describes this phenomenon as the “Stickiness” factor in his novel The Tipping Point. Essentially, there are three laws of tipping points, and the Stickiness factor remains at its core. Content, regardless of the medium, is only “sticky” if it is worth spreading. While connections may be made, it takes more than just likes and admirers to make images such as infographics go viral. According to the Stickiness factor, content must have a defining factor that stays in the viewers minds. It must be deemed worthy of being shared by the audience it is shown to. And while Gladwell admits that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint the algorithm for creating sticky content, he is certain that often times edits and changes are required to be made to the initial piece of content before it is effectively “sticky”. Sticky, or viral content is universally adored. And more often than not, it comes in the form of easily digestible imagery.
When a narrative is paired with compelling imagery, content becomes more easily anchored in reality. Because visually processed information is easier to recall, elements such as color, size and orientation are just some of the many attributes that can make the world of difference in communicating data. Design knows no bounds. There is nothing that cannot be conquered and communicated by powerful design. We correlate color with certain meaning, view different shapes and sizes to represent quantity, and general direction or orientation of something can depict trends.
In the same way that we are hardwired to understand storytelling, we are hardwired to understand images. Both Infographics and written content needs to be skimmable, regardless of the subject matter. This goes back to the Stickiness factor. If nothing is there to stick, it will not be a success.The job of an infographic is to convey a comprehensive story by way of both text and images. The information displayed and conveyed can span a range of topics. These subjects can be informative and present data and analytics or tell stories, connecting with readers.
In essence, we are inherent storytellers with tremendous resources and platforms to distill our narratives. While we are surrounded by data, nothing is so stale that it cannot be revived by amazing imagery. The marketing pros at Column Five Media remind us that your message is only as good as your ability to share it. Visual data has the unique ability to convey statistics and numbers in a way that simple written language cannot. And when the two are paired together in an effective infographic, they are unstoppable.