Storytelling with Data is a well-written practical guide for visual learners to grasp the basic concepts behind communication with data, regardless of background and level of experience.

The book takes the reader through steps for creating a compelling story using data. The following is what I find most inspiring from the book:

1.The importance of context

“Communication” is the first keyword for data visualization. The preparation required for technical communication versus a business presentation is quite different. Project context, current progress, and internal and external environment, all of them are factors we need to consider before preparing the story.

2. Choosing an effective visual

The most interesting part of my career as a data analyst is data visualization. I love doing creative work, and the constant iteration of data visualization tools makes it easier for non-professional graphic designers, like me, to make more attractive visuals! There is no absolute good or bad in charts. A chart that can help the audience understand the content and facilitate understanding is a good chart.

3. Clutter is your enemy

Clutter refers to “visual elements which take up space, but don’t increase understanding”. The rule is simple, the visual that has no value in facilitating understanding should be eliminated. The book discusses Gestalt principles, alignment, white space and contrast can result in a dramatic improvement in the graph.

4. Gain your audience’s attention

The key message you want to convey to the audience should be what your audience sees first. The book reviews pre-attentive attributes for directing the audience’s attention to key elements of the graph. Fonts, colors, positions etc. should all contribute to guiding the audience to follow your thinking.

5. Think like a designer

In the data presentation stage, put the audience experience first. Simplify complexity, remove distracting factors, and deliver the most important and noteworthy information in the simplest and most efficient way.

6. Tell a story

A good data analyst must be a master storyteller, not a mechanical retelling of the content on slides. The story starts from the background and environmental context, then move to the core issues, and finishes with a call to action at the end. The story is explained in simple language and guides the audience to understand the business logic behind the data.

The book gives you great insights on what to do and what not to do in building visualisations. It’s a must-read for data analysts to learn how to tell “stories” with data.


The Data School
Author: The Data School