By now, everyone understands that we often need data to make our points. This is particularly true for organizations and companies that employ their data to show successes, plans, needs, or status. However, while the good ’ole PowerPoint prezzie still has its place in offices and boardrooms, data is more and more frequently being used to tell complex and engaging stories. New technology is helping to drive the new trend, but it’s also a new way of thinking about data–using it more creatively and even artistically. Data can now be transformed into dramatic visuals that can move your audience, awaken their passions, and deliver your message with more power than ever before.
In this, the second part of a two-part article, we’ll look at three more fascinating examples of data storytelling to inspire you in your efforts as you tell your data-driven stories.
Produced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this website relies on a myriad of data to emphatically demonstrate that inequalities exist between people across genders and geographical regions. Scrolling through eye-grabbing graphics, maps, and photos, the narrative illustrates baked-in challenges and disadvantages faced by (for example) women and children in certain parts of Africa and Asia. Using animated scatter-plots, interactive maps, simple but clearly labeled graphics, and other arresting visuals, the website guides the visitor to an understanding that a person’s access to education, health care, economic opportunities, and other basic benefits are largely functions of one’s place of origin and gender.
The website happy data is the brainchild of Giorgia Lupi, acclaimed Italian information designer, and founding partner at Pentagram, the renowned global design firm founded in London in 1972. happy data consists not so much of one overarching data-supported narrative; rather it comprises many smaller modules, each of which employs data in various ways to deliver encouraging (“happy”) info-bites regarding societal changes and trends. As Lupi puts it, they are “Hopeful views of the world through data and drawings.” One graphic shows the incredible amount of donations made by professional sports teams in the United States to support charitable causes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Another shows that air pollution in Italy has been steadily decreasing for the past couple of decades. These statistics could easily be shown using very simple, typical, bare-bones graphics and numbers, but happy data’s graphs are creative and fun to look at regardless of their data or point–proof that data and art can get along just fine.
The Oatmeal is a humor blog created by American cartoonist Matthew Inman in 2009. However, more than just funny cartoons with three or four panels and a punchline, The Oatmeal’s offerings often welcome the visitor into complicated graphic narratives that serve as explainer articles for concepts and situations that might otherwise be difficult to grasp and probably boring to research. One great example is Inman’s complex but funny and informative explanation of the concept of Net Neutrality. Not every Oatmeal cartoon is an example of brilliant data storytelling. His hilarious comic about how to hold a baby should probably not be taken at face value, for example, but many of Inman’s comics are quite sophisticated and involve science, math, history, and (of course) data. The Oatmeal serves as another great example of how data and art can be blended together to educate, motivate, and entertain.