Making your story “look good”: A guide to data visualization

As knowledge and proof of truth are quantified in big data, a question arises more often than not in the journalistic field. During iMEdD’s International Journalism Forum 2023, professionals from the field of visualization came together to talk about new ways of compelling storytelling. During his talk “Empowering change with creative 3D visuals and maps”, Julian Hoffman, data visualization consultant and designer, materialized the question hanging in the air: “Is there a way for data to touch the reader?”.

Why do we need good visualizations?

Numbers are universally understood, yet simply presenting a few of them is often insufficient for achieving a comprehensive understanding or for illustrating an argument convincingly. According to Hoffman, visuals convey the entire story. Although he speaks four languages, the imagery makes his narration universally accessible. “For me, visual languages mean I don’t have to translate everything I think”, he admitted to iMEdD via his home computer in London after the completion of the Forum.

“Data visualization is a technology—or set of technologies—and, like artifacts such as the clock, the compass, the abacus, or the map, it transforms the way we see and relate to reality”, writes Professor Alberto Cairo in his book “Data Visualization in Society”. Data visualization is essential for both the reader and the journalist. Effective visualizations will allow both of them to understand their own data and to communicate their insights to others. Examining an excessive amount of numbers when analyzing data can be tiring for anyone. However, visuals can aid in offering perspective, identifying weaknesses in your data analysis, and pinpointing the outliers in the data.

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