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!


Old School vs. New School Knowledge Face-off: Winner Takes All

Imagine life 2,000ish years ago: a long-haired hippie named Jesus was preaching peace in the Middle East, Africa was mostly undiscovered and coffee didn’t exist yet (gawd, how did people live?!). One of the earliest encyclopedias to make it to modern times can also be traced back to that time, around 77 AD, when Pliny the Elder compiled and published his work of over 20,000 facts from 2,000 works by over 200 authors.

While society has evolved and changed and improved (Starbucks, anyone?),  encyclopedias have remained much the same. This is puzzling, as knowledge is one of the most popular topics on the internet. In October 2016, Wikipedia received 5B monthly visits, and the largest online publications got around 10% of that traffic (BBC 568M, CNN 528M, ESPN 470M). IMDb has 670M monthly visits, which is more than all the traffic of all the entertainment publications combined.

And although Wikipedia made a huge impact with its debut in 2001,  its interface and delivery of knowledge has evolved minimally. (Which is kind of crazy, considering 65% of digital media time is spent on mobile and the traits of Millenials-hyper connectivity, content consumption, creation and curation- have now been adopted by users of all ages.)

Old School New School Knowledge matchup.jpg

The knowledge industry needs a facelift, and quick. Technology is changing rapidly, and users habits have adjusted to accommodate the devices they use to consume information. Additionally, attention spans have gotten shorter and users expect a little pizzazz with their text-interactivity, visualization, pretty interfaces.

Let’s wrap this up since you’re probably already focused on something else (yes, people with short attention spans, we’re talking to you).

The knowledge industry can become so much more relevant- meeting users where they’re at, creating an environment where information is dynamic, allowing users to interact with the data they are seeking.  Challenge accepted 🙂


Our Story, Chapter 1

Once upon a time, in a corporate far far away, lived a rag-tag team of designers, techies and marketers with a genius idea.

It all started with DEEP’s founders and core tech team, who all used to work together developing interactive interfaces for TV services. One day, they had the idea to provide TV viewers with the relevant background information that could be quickly brought up on mobile while watching their favorite shows.

As they investigated, they realized knowledge in general was a hot topic, but that the current online knowledge solutions weren’t a good fit for most users, specifically Millennials. They weren’t quick, visual, mobile, and they didn’t offer a good discovery experience.

They felt that Google and other search engines answered a question very quickly, but, discovering  more was a lengthy process. IMDB and Wikipedia were good for giving the full background on TV, movies and celebs, however, their solution is text heavy.

Therein came the team’s first of many A-ha! moments: they should make knowledge fun, visually appealing, and easy to use. How could they build something to fill the gap?

With the blessing of the large corporate that bought the previous company where they all worked, they founded DEEP. Their first thought was “We want to reinvent the way knowledge is offered to the masses.”

They came up with a plan, focused on the following tenets:

  • Knowledge should be offered in bite-sized portions
  • It must be visual, mobile friendly, and engaging
  • Knowledge cannot just sit there quietly waiting to someone to search for it

Where have we gone since then? Check out our timeline for the company story. Strap on your seat-belt and enjoy the ride!

So, knowledge world, wait no more! We’re here to rock you.

The End.
Just kidding. We’re just getting started!