February 16, 2018

Using Data to Show/Tell Your Story

You know the old adage: a picture’s worth a thousand words. In today’s world sometimes the best picture isn’t a picture, but a number. We all have access to numbers — circulation, visits, program attendance, cardholders — but how are we telling our story with those numbers?

Please don’t let it be through a boring list of one number after the other (I plead guilty as charged!) Instead, think about those numbers as a story telling device:  in other words, to quote a great blog post I’m going to share with you… “transform your data from an afterthought into a powerful communications product is through visualizations that help tell your story.”

The blog  byKurt Voelker on nten.org offers six ways to get the most out of your numbers:

1.Speak with Numbers

“Sometimes, it’s best to just let the numbers speak for themselves. Numbers are a universal langauge. You can make a big impression of site visitors just by presenting them clearly, and in context with your web content.”

2. Reveal Change

“Many of the stories we’d like our site visitors to understand are centered on revealing the truth behind a situation. The truth can become obvious when you reveal the change in data in a visual way. By simply removing everthing except the changing data, your data will suddenly reveal the compelling story you are looking to spread – whether you are revealing conditions that are worsening, attitudes that are changes, or the improvements you organization is making.”

3. Focus the Story

“If you really want users to understand the story your data tells, you need to remove everything except the story. Focus their attention, and they’ll get it. Everything else is just noise.” Check out this example!

4. Provide Context

“When telling your story with data, look outside your own data set to find other data that makes your story more accessible – puts it in context.”

5. Let User’s Explore, Discover, and Control

“Moving beyond info-graphics and simple into interactive tools that let the users take control of the data themselves are another powerful way to reveal your story through data.”

6. Tell Your Story, Literally!

You don’t have to be a design genius. Use free tools to create impact. Tools like Goggle Spreadsheet that has some dynamic and innovative — and free — ways to visualize your information. Here’s the one they have for gauges — so cute!!

Ok…I’m on a mission. No more boring lists of numbers!! What about you. Any examples you might be able to share?

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.