Using data to tell a story
In my last blogpost I looked at ‘peak content’ and shared some tips for creating shareable content for use on social platforms. One of the most popular pieces of content shared on social is infographics. The great thing about them is that they’re an excellent way of using data to tell a story. Newspapers have long been creating them in print to illustrate stories, and the Guardian and the FT both have dedicated data journalists and designers that have created some great infographics in recent years. Done well, they prompt a discussion or conversation (or sometimes an argument).
The Guardian datablog is a good place to start to seek out some nice examples of infographics and data visualisations. It may be a few years old now, but their infographic on Government department spending in 2011 (below) is a fantastic example of what a good infographic should do – using data to tell an interesting story in a visually stimulating way. Yes, it’s busy, there’s a lot of information on there, but for politics nerds and designers it’s quite something.
However, it’s a bit too detailed for the average social media timeline – too much zooming in and losing your way. But if you have the time to pore over the figures it’s perfect.
An excellent recent example that worked well on social is the one below from National Parks Wales, who used some data about their parks to tell a great story about their impact on people, businesses and on the country. It’s simply done but well executed, and perfect for social. It prompted discussions about the importance of green space on well-being and the impact of global warming.
Here at Sheffield Hallam, we commissioned a designer to create an infographic for use both on social and as a handout for some of our regional stakeholders. We wanted it to tell the story of our impact in the city region through supporting jobs and driving economic growth. We posted it on Twitter and LinkedIn, and it was widely shared by our business-engaged audiences. It’s also a useful handout for staff who are working with stakeholders and want to provide them with something which demonstrates our impact.
Commissioning a designer is a good idea, but not everyone can afford that. If you want to try yourself, there are some useful free tools out there. Websites like FlatIcon have lots of useful free icons and images that you can download, and Infogram is a good online tool to help you create something from scratch. There are some good templates in software such as Prezi and even MS Powerpoint. If you do give it a go, have a read of Guardian data journalist George Arnett’s article on some golden rules and things to avoid before you get started.
Ally Mogg, head of news and PR