It’s never been easier (and sexier) to turn data into stories

It's never been easier (and sexier) to tell data-driven stories

I love creativity, design and storytelling. I also love data, software and reporting. With my right brain fighting with my left brain for dominance, you can understand how I can sometimes become torn.

In high school, my favourite course was drafting where I was able to blend math, software and design in AutoCAD. At graduation, I took home the “Art Award,” so naturally my next step was to enroll in 1st year engineering at the University of Toronto. At the time, math vs. art was an either-or scenario when it came to my post secondary education. And hey, why wouldn’t I go down the path that paid better?

Looking back, I’m grateful that engineering didn’t work out and that I found my calling in the field of Media Communications. It turns out that media and marketing is the perfect hybrid of creativity and numbers. You see, I didn’t have to pick sides after all.

Now almost 15 years later, I find myself on the edge of my seat when coming across all of the creative ways technology and social media are being used to tell data-driven stories – right up my alley! 

Data journalism isn’t new, but it’s certainly exploded and become democratized through digital and social content. For instance, just last week I came across #datavines [see: how to tell a numbers driven story in six seconds]. They really make an impact, leveraging the unique features of social video to communicate snackable facts in an eye-catching way.

“Vine videos have become their own six-second art form, but they are also increasingly being used to tell a data-driven story or give more impact to a statistic or group of numbers.”

From my perspective, this really works as a new way of storytelling. Why? Because it’s a simple, interesting and creative way to get a message across. Often when numbers are presented, people (myself included) sometimes fall into the trap of cramming too many data points into a report, slide or infographic. Communicating information through good design, with a singular focus, really matters. You could have the most valuable and insightful stats in the world, but if you’re not able to present them in a straightforward way that’s easy to comprehend, then you’ve failed. This takes time, experience and a lot of trial and error. Luckily, there’s more inspiration than ever.

Thanks to the OpenData movement and open source visualization tools, having the means to tell slick and uncomplicated data-driven stories has never been easier. The team running the Twitter Media Blog is using Datawrapper, an easy to use free tool that allows you to create embeddable charts that can be customized to the look & feel of your brand. Here’s an example of the type of data visualization that can be effortlessly created in a few steps.

With free tools like Infogr.amEasel.ly and many others now at our fingertips, there are countless ways to turn data into stories. However, the reality is that a number of tools out there are just crappy – far too complex and visually unappealing to meet the needs of brands and content marketers. Innovative social content trends like #datavines and user-friendly visualization tools like Datawrapper are just the tip of the iceberg. Brands now have the means to tell data-driven stories simpler, faster and sexier. I’m excited to watch this space and see how people creatively integrate more data into their storytelling efforts.

Have you come across marketers that are using data in unique and memorable ways to support their brand stories? What elements of your brand story can you tell with data?

Photo Credit: Paul Clarke via Aeioux on Flickr
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