Data-driven Storytelling: What Does it Mean and Why Should You Care?

Did you know that over 23,000 breast reduction surgeries are done every year in the US…on men? This blog has nothing to do with breasts, surgery or even man boobs, but that line got your attention, right?

And that’s kind of the point. Since people are inundated with content these days, you have to grab them right away (ahem…grab their attention, that is). Usually, text plays second fiddle to visuals when attempting to keep a reader on your page. People remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of what they read, so visuals really are king these days. However, not just any visual will keep people engaged.

Tin can communication
Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?!

What is Data-driven Storytelling?

Would you believe us if we told you it was a man in a car named “Data” who likes stories? No? Ok, well here’s the real deal, then: Data-driven storytelling is a way for people (and companies) to effectively communicate data insights, using a combination of data, visuals and narrative. The data-driven visual helps to tell a story in a way that words or pictures alone simply cannot achieve. When you are using visualized data to tell your story, readers become more engaged in the content. When you are providing beautifully visual, informational insights into a sports player, an actor or a movie, it helps to give the reader a new angle through which to see and understand the subject.

Hey ladies…want to see my data visualizations?

The Importance of Data-driven Storytelling

Everyone has heard the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words” and no one knows that better than content creators (and…uh…maybe Picasso). Even cavemen and Egyptians, back in the day, communicated through visuals in order to transmit information and tell stories.

However, the time of cavemen and Egyptians was a simpler, less-connected time: no social media, living in the dark (literally), and only worrying about being eaten by a large animal. But since then, life has gotten more complicated and infinitely more complex: since 2013, more data has been created than in the entire history of the human race and ten percent of all photos ever taken were taken in the last 12 months. Whoa. Most people, particularly online consumers, want information, but in order to process and sort through all this data for the relevant info, they need it in a visual, bite-sized, and mobile friendly way.

Cavemen used tablets, too! Ba dum ching

The Science Behind the Story

Let’s put on our Pinky and the Brain hats and back up these claims with some science. We know that the visualization of data allows the brain to process information more easily and at a faster rate than it would with just facts and figures alone. The two sides of our brain process data very differently, and at different speeds, with the right side (visual, perceptive, more abstract) processing at a quicker and more efficient rate than the left side of the brain (the cognitive, thinking side). Data visualization stimulates both sides of the brain, as well as supercharges and optimizes brain power (however dataviz stimulates only the brain…sorry guys).  

girl in a classroom standing in front of a chalkboard looking at a brain with a magnifying glass
You can believe us because we said “brain science”

This method of looking at data is powerful because it takes advantage of the brain’s ability to process information by shifting the balance between perception and cognition. Therefore, data visualization is a more effective method for the brain to understand information. Our brains are infinitely happier and work better when we give them visuals and text in a balanced and manageable format. And who doesn’t want to make their brain happy?!

We also know that the brain is really just a big computer, with software and memory and storage components. (So, basically….we’re robots with hair). Our brains are receiving tons of information-in fact, neuroscientists estimate that up to 100 megabits of information flow into each eye every second, comparable to the fastest broadband connections.  And we just threw out the word neuroscientist, so you know this has to be true.

Boys Dressed as Businessmen Wearing Mind Reading Helmets
Your brain on DEEP

Studies done on memory and attention show our growing inability to multitask and retain the ever-increasing amount of information that is coming our way. Therefore, we must rely on external forms of information storage, which can be done by encoding information visually. This allows more information to infiltrate the brain’s memory. Aka our brains can’t handle all the info that’s being thrown at it, so we have to outsource it to visuals.

Here at DEEP, we investigate the world of knowledge visualization, so stay up to date with us as we share our findings!

Now that we know how important dataviz is, stay tuned for our next post on tips to make the most our of your data visualizations.

Share your Experience

If you have any data-driven storytelling tricks, tips or ideas of your own that you’d like to share, let us know in the comments section!



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