Book Review: Storytelling With Data

Book Review - Storytelling With Data

Usually when talking about data one would refer to number crunching and staring at spreadsheets. In recent years however with the growing popularity of infographics and web analytics data goes far beyond just numbers. It is a visual process that require creativity, correct use of colors, correct use of graphs and most importantly storytelling.

I work a lot with data related to digital marketing and web analytics. I analyze a lot of websites and their marketing performance, user engagement performance and conversion performance and visualizing data is a big part of what I do.

A few months ago I stumbled upon Storytelling with Data blog, a blog which has actually been around for quite some time so my bad I only discovered it recently. It was clear from the very beginning that I had a lot to learn about data visualization from the awesome author Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic.

And it didn’t take me long to get convinced to buy her book Storytelling with Data.

The book is divided into ten chapter each one teaching a different concept in data design with real life examples and case studies. What I found particularly useful was Cole’s lessons in:

  • how to choose the most appropriate type of graph for your data (always a challenge when I’m working on my reports)
  • how to carefully choose colors
  • how to direct your audiences attention to where you want it

But what is most impressive about this book is its dedication to teach us how to leverage the power of storytelling to help get the message across and make stick with our audience. Chapter Seven called Lessons in Storytelling deals specifically with that looking at examples of storytelling in plays, screenwriting and creative writing and how the concepts can be applied to data visualization.

The book uses some really basic examples but as I was reading through all the tips and suggestions in the book I was amazed to realize how many silly mistakes I was making in visualizing my data in the reports.

Storytelling with Data specifically uses presentations and PowerPoint decks as an example. I wish the book had touched upon how to apply all these concepts and lessons when you deal with dashboards and large reports. In my line of work I sometimes need to put several visuals in one page. This is my biggest challenge every month when I prepare report for clients – how can I draw their attention to where it is most needed and how can I tell a story when there are so many graphs and tables in one place.

Still this book is a great starting point and an excellent resource to help you with any data visualization challaneges you are facing. You will get a basic introduction to data graphics, will learn the importance of color and how to apply storytelling concepts into data visuals.

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