Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Telling the raw data story

Unfortunately, it isn't our industry's practice to add a sidebar note to a media results report that says, "This above-the-fold story was placed after two months of weekly phone calls to the rudest, most preoccupied editor the world has ever known. Multiple staff members camped out in front of said editor's apartment to capitalize on a prime door-to-train-station pitching window, just to secure dialogue."

Oftentimes adequate time is not taken to explain the process that led up to the results. We assume that data will make sense. We assume that our audiences will connect the dots between information, neglecting the important space between and the story that accompanies the process.

Data deserves a story. Information requires context. Fast Company has an interesting article on how "information architects" are working to add meaning to data and relevance to information. They employ design and storytelling tactics to help audiences make sense of info.

The stand-out quote that all should heed, whether relaying raw data or explaining processes:

The endgame: storytelling, communication, and connecting. Information is the destination, and design -- color, line, typography -- is how we arrive there. That process always starts with a question. If you're designing an instruction manual, the question may be "How do you drive a car?" -- which is a different question from "How do you drive a car in a rainstorm?" If you're sitting in a car in a rainstorm, you need to know how to turn on the windshield wipers. You don't want that information to be buried on page 94 under "Dashboard."


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