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Visual as a Major Component

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Storytelling is a way of sharing ideas, events, or facts to inform, educate or convince the reader. It is an important part of Journalism. 

Visual storytelling otherwise called data visualisation is the presentation of information in a pictorial or graphical format. It enables the reader to see the analytics presented visually, so they can grasp difficult concepts or identify new patterns. Visual storytelling involves the use of static or animated images, videos, and text to convey your data. Below is a story on the comparison of the speed, size, and aggressiveness of Mammoth and Saber-toothed cat in a visual format.

The design above uses simply the images of both animals with icons and text labels.

Another example is the use of graphs and charts to tell a story. Below is a visual representation of data using pie charts.

Visuals as a major component of a data story

There are three components or constituents of a data story:

  • Data
  • Narrative
  • Visual

The data is the raw numbers/figures collected, processed, and analysed for the story. The data presented determines the visual to be designed. Another determinant of the visual is the goal of the story. So, with the data and the goal in mind, we get the visuals designed. The last component is the narrative, which is a deduction, a summary analysis or a statement of conclusion gotten from the data and the visual. These three components make a good data story. So, the importance of visuals in storytelling, in data journalism cannot be overemphasized.

Infographics vs Data Visualisation

Infographics and data visualisation are two closely related terms often misconstrued. 

Although, they can be used interchangeably, as both are visual representations of data but there’s a little difference. 

Data visualisation is usually one element (i.e. a map, graph, chart or diagram) but Infographics contain additional elements like narrative and graphics. An infographic often contains multiple data visualizations or a data visualisation alongside narratives (texts), icons or illustrations, to convey data/ a thought. So, in general, data visualisation are generally briefer, usually, just a single element(graph, chart) to visualise your data/message while infographics are more complex and could even be as large as pages of a document. 

Below is a visual representation of the differences.

Visualisation Tools

There are several software applications that can be used to design visualizations. Some of these applications are free while most of them are premium. They also vary in complexity, ease of use and in their capacities. Other tools for visualisation are programming languages like python, javascript and R. In fact, most of the visualization tools mentioned here are designed from these programming languages so that a layman can design a visualization without having programming skills. 

Here is a list of some popular visualisation tools/platform:

  • Datawrapper — An online platform that simplifies the creation of beautiful, interactive, and embeddable charts. Their website is https://www.datawrapper.de/
  • Infogram — Infogram is another powerful online platform that simplifies the creation of embeddable infographics. The strength of Infogram is the ability to make complex infographics with draggable elements and shapes. Their website is http://infogram.com/
  • StoryMap — It’s a free tool to help you tell stories that highlight the locations of a series of events. It’s an online tool that enables you to share your maps alongside narrative text and other multimedia content. StoryMap website is https://storymaps.arcgis.com/
  • Tableau Public — Tableau software is a robust and popular software in the field of data science. Tableau creates interactive, beautiful, and embeddable visualizations. Tableau has both desktop and online platforms. The desktop version has to be downloaded and installed on your computer. It also has both free and premium versions. The general official website for Tableau is https://www.tableau.com/  while the free version is on https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/
  • Flourish — Flourish is a powerful online platform for the creation of interactive visualizations. Its strength is in the production of very interactive visualisations, simple to use and almost entirely free to use. https://flourish.studio/
  • Adobe Illustrator — This is about the most popular desktop software for designing infographics, owned by Adobe Inc., a leading and popular software company known for the production of multimedia and creativity software products.

Knowledge Check! (Data Visualization)

Why Visual Storytelling

Importance of data visualisations

Data Exploration: Data exploration is the act of analyzing data to study its characteristics, to spot an anomaly, discover patterns or even study a hypothesis. Imagine having a huge dataset and you’re not able to make any meaningful sense out of it. What you need is data exploration, otherwise called Exploratory Data Analysis. So, Data Exploration is all about making sense out of data. The most common way of performing data exploration is to turn the data to visualisation, so you can draw up conclusions from the visualisation. 

Convey Information: The human brain easily captures (memorizes) visuals than text. Visuals are a better and simpler way of conveying pieces of information. A complex data or lengthy message could be simplified in just a single and simple visual. Even in our day-to-day activities, visuals are easier to relate to than text. A good example is the use of road signs instead of text. 

Tell A story: Of Course, this is the crux of this lesson. A better, more exciting way of telling a story is to use visuals. Data visualisation helps to communicate data constructively and objectively. The impact of using visuals on stories cannot be overemphasized. A story with insightful visualisations is likely to entertain, educate and retain the reader on the page more than a story just with texts.

The Anatomy of a chart

A standard chart usually have the following sections: 

  • Title and subtitle
  • x-axis and y-axis
  • Legend
  • Source and logo at the footer
  • Data labels

Knowledge Check! Why Visual Storytelling