How to visualise data

How to visualise data

Presenting data in an engaging way is an increasingly important part of today's corporate marketing needs. To learn more about it the Bouche team recently went on a data visualisation course run by The Guardian. The day explained the history of charts & diagrams, how to read complex sets of data, look for a story to tell and how best to tell it. The course was really aimed at journalists but the lessons are valuable for anyone needing to make their information interesting.

Data Visualisation can be broken down into 3 key stages; Story, Chart, and Design. The first, and arguably most crucial part of the process, is finding the story in the data. What information do you want to highlight, and what will resonate the most with your intended audience? Now you need to decide which charts will best represent your data and communicate the story. This could be a traditional bar or pie chart, or something like a heat map, tree map, pictogram, radial, wordle…the possibilities are endless. Finally the design, your chart needs to look fantastic, draw the audience’s eye, and tell a complex story almost instantaneously.

The are many schools of thought on the best way to visualise data. Some, like Edward Tufte, favour a traditional statistics-based approach, preferring clarity and accuracy. Others, like David McCandless, are more interested in teasing stories out of data and then making them as visually appealing as possible with less attention to the details.

Many marcomms professionals may feel this is all too scientific for their needs but as the volumes and variety of information produced by companies grow the more understanding we need on how best to communicate the stories within it.

The charts below show the different styles of a Tufte chart (L) and one by McCandless (R).

One of our recent animated infographic videos charting the oil crisis.