Tell me a data story.

September 10, 2018

 

 

Sounds simple enough...

 

But there are two parts to this request: the writing of the story, followed by its telling.

 

To tell a data story, you have to write it first - unless you were born with the innate ability of story creation on the fly, and eat data for breakfast (but even then you’ll want to allow time for quality checks...).

 

You can read more about what a data story is (and isn’t) here.

 

 

The September #SWDChallenge: makeover this graph.

 

Each month, Storytelling with Data sets a data visualisation challenge and one word in particular stood out to me this month - storytelling.

 

“Consider the following visual. Your challenge this month is to improve it utilizing data visualization and storytelling best practices.” – Elizabeth Ricks.

 

 

 

I chose to focus my efforts on uncovering a story in the above graphs - both in its writing and telling.

 

 

Writing the data story.

 

A good way to find a data story is to start questioning the holes – find the information gaps the graphs don’t explain.

 

  • How much money are we talking about?

  • What proportion of global GDP is this?

  • Why are Europe and Asia Pacific showing almost an inverse change, while the others remain fairly constant?

  • What drove the increase for Asia Pacific?

 

Answering some of these questions helped create a narrative for the series of events in my story. Here is the narrative I wrote for the above graphs:

 

Travel and tourism generated $7.6 trillion dollars globally in 2016. This was 10% of the world’s total GDP. Asia Pacific made the biggest contribution with 31%. But years earlier, Europe was the leading travel market - in 2000, Europe was responsible for over a third of global travel and tourism GDP. Over the next 16 years, driven by a strengthening economy in the Asia Pacific region, Asia Pacific surpassed Europe as the global leader in GDP contribution from travel and tourism.

 
Important to note: I wrote the data story before visualising anything.

 

 

Telling the data story.

 

Once a narrative has been written, there are many ways it could be told. For this particular data story, I chose to animate it using Adobe After Effects.

 

A data narrative will naturally lend itself for the visualisation of certain parts. Below is my draft (pen and paper) visualisation of the above narrative:

 

 
Narrative: "Travel and tourism generated $7.6 trillion dollars globally in 2016."
 

Visual: A growing bar chart.

 

 

 

Narrative: "This was 10% of the world’s total GDP." 
 

Visual: A globe enclosed by a donut chart.

 

 

 

Narrative: "Asia Pacific made the biggest contribution with 31%."
 

 Visual: A map highlighting Asia Pacific with a stacked dot plot showing global GDP contribution.

 

 

 

Narrative: "But years earlier, Europe was the leading travel market - in 2000, Europe was responsible for over a third of global travel and tourism GDP." 
 

Visual: A map highlighting Europe and a stacked dot plot showing the global GDP contribution (dots animate to change position). The year winds back to show previous time period. 

 

 

 
Narrative: "Over the next 16 years, driven by a strengthening economy in the Asia Pacific region, Asia Pacific surpassed Europe as the global leader in GDP contribution from travel and tourism."

 

Visual: Connecting lines between the 2000 and 2016 dot plots create a slope graph.

 

 

 

You can see the final (no-frills) animation here.

 

 

 

Tell me a data story.

 

Putting effort into the data story process will make your data communications more effective.

 

  • Find out what your data does not explain. You will have to look elsewhere for answers but this will help to find your narrative.

  • Write the narrative. Use words only - no pictures.

  • Tell the story. Visualise your data. 

 

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