I admit it. I think I’ve probably produced more than my fair share of excel pie charts and graphs over the 15 years. Often in the name of the annual report, tenants’ newsletter or performance report for the board papers. They were certainly an improvement on a table of numbers (unless like me, you happen to love numbers), but I’m not sure they really told their story effectively. I reckon most folks still had to ‘pay attention’ and concentrate to plough through the details, which was a disheartening after the all the work that went into collecting the data.
So I’m loving seeing the growth of ‘infographics’ as a way of interpreting data. Telling stories with data. Engaging the audience, pulling them in with interest, rather than requiring them them ‘to pay attention’. I think of the creative folks who produce these as ‘data-artists’. The disciplines of numeracy, logic and statistics are coming together with those of story-tellers and communicators, with spectacular results. I really look forward to seeing an RSL annual report done in this style soon.
Visual.ly is a useful showcase for inspiration. It’s where I found the one the one on the left (and there’s over 3,500 more to check out). It’s an infographic community site – a flickr.com for infographics if you like. You can check out work that other users have uploaded. If you register, you can upload your own work, and seek feedback on it from the community. There’s a cute twitter visualisation tool to get you started – you feed in your twitter @name, select some display preferences, and it’ll auto-generate a visualisation of your activity on twitter. They’re also planning to release some further tools to help with creating infographics, so keep an eye out. Follow them on twitter (@visually) for a regular feed of new data-loveliness
One thing I’ve noticed with lots of the most engaging infographics, is how they’ve given a simple, humanised interpretation of the headline data. It was easy to forget that facebook receives however many squillion page views per day in the UK, but I’ve remembered (since last November) that it’s one in four pages viewed. I’ll be trying to remember that next time I write a stats heavy performance report.