Storytelling

Nadieh Bremer

VisualCinnamon.com

@NadiehBremer

Psychology

Visual

A visualization is worth a million data points

Nobody thinks in words or numbers. We think in images because we are all visual beings

More than 70% of all the sensory receptors in the body are in the eyes

Evolution has transformed our brains to identify patterns

When done right

Intuitive to comprehend the whole picture

View both simple and complex data

See abnormalities, dependencies and trends not apparent from numbers themselves

January

April

July

October

Blue is the new Orange

What are the usual pitfalls?

Unclear visual encodings
Too many variables
Too many data points

Too much information at once

What

can we do?

Storytelling

with

In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained

 

Whereas in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled

John Allen Paulos

Stories match the way the human brain understands information

You cannot avoid telling stories to yourself

The Sweet Spot

Stories are | emotional
Stories are | memorable
Stories are | impactful

Structuring your

data story

Structure of a Story

Define your audience

Set the scene

Introduce the characters

Create tension

Provide resolution

Define your Audience

Novice

Is new to the subject but doesn't want oversimplification

Manager

Seeks in-depth, actionable understanding of intricacies with access to detail

Expert

Wants more exploration and discovery and less business

Executive

Needs to know the significance and conclusions

Don’t be your own audience

(you already know the story)

Set the Scene

Contextualize by giving the necessary introduction, what will the audience be looking at, before showing any data

Make it clear what to look at, especially where to start looking

Keep in mind that stories have a beginning, middle, and end

Introduce the Characters

Explain gradually what each visual encoding means, e.g.

The essence of a data visualization is converting data into visual elements - bars, lines, points, colors, etc.

Colors

Shapes

Axes

Create Tension

Limit complexity at first by gradually exposing your data

Unfold it, don't dump

Reveal as needed

Start by showing one interesting datapoint or insight and explain this in full detail

Provide Resolution

Inviting readers to draw their own conclusions is risky because even simple data sets can convey different messages

In the end give the audience either

Solid Conclusion

Platform where the audience can  explore the data themselves

Structure of a Story

Define your audience

Set the scene

Introduce the characters

Create tension

Provide resolution

Why do data stories work?

Unclear visual encodings
Too many data points
Too many variables

Gradual introduction of information

Explicit visual encodings
Gradual introduction of data points
Independent introduction of variables

Storytelling will bring

Engagement

Focus

Memorability

For lasting effect you need to persuade the rational brain

But also resonate with the emotional brain

Psychology

Visual

First some Fun

Context is Everything

(Even though we behave successfully in the physical world, we don’t see it according to measured reality)

 

Our brains are wired to see differences in our field of vision not absolute values

Our brains are wired to see differences in our field of vision not absolute values

That's not all

Size, orientation, movement, these are all defined by what we see near the object

You think that dress is black and blue?

(or white and gold?)

Our perception of color is controlled much more by our brains than our eyes

"The dress"

Our perception of color is controlled much more by our brains than our eyes

"The dress"

You're seeing things

(colors that aren't actually there)

It's not what you look at, but what you see

Picking your chart

What's your point?

(no really, what are you trying to tell me)

Top Takeaways

Is your data about time?

Is your data about groups?

Line chart

Bar chart

How accurate you can read exact numbers from a chart depends on the visual encoding

The top end is perfect for reading off exact numbers and comparisons

The lower end is perfect for quickly seeing trends

Pie charts are bad

(there is always a better option)

The only good use of a Pie Chart

3D is not effective

(don't assume that just because a program offers a certain chart, that it's a good choice)

Effective visualization

Remove the clutter

(you don't need half of what you think you need)

A set of principles in psychology to account for the observation that humans naturally perceive objects as organized patterns and groups

Gestalt laws of grouping

Law of Proximity

Law of Similarity

Things that are close together are perceptually grouped together

Things that are close together are perceptually grouped together

Law of Continuity

Visual entities are constructed out of elements that are smooth, aligned or continuous

Law of Continuity

Left aligned of the bars makes it obvious that they share the same baseline, thus eliminating the need to reinforce with a vertical axis

The left alignment of the division and departments and the right alignment of the headcount creates a strong sense of grouping without the need for vertical gridlines

Law of Closure

There is a perceptual tendency to close contours that have gaps in them

Law of Closure

Although there is no square here one is perceived. Most also feel that the area within the “square” is a bit greenish

Law of Closure

Only a subtle axis is needed to define a closed space
Everything inside belongs to the entity “chart”

There are many other things going on here that distract the eyes from the data itself, not everything needs the same amount of "attention"

The focus is on the data, the gridlines & the box around the chart area removed and the axes are made grey and smaller

Add meaningful annotation 

(don’t just label)

Use preattentive features

(the stuff we see "at a glance")

6 0 3 7 3 6 5 8 0 0 6 4 5 2 2 6 1 0 2 4 1 1 7 1 4 9 0 2 6 4 2 8 8 2 8 5 4 6 9 6 5 5 5 6 8 3 6 4 8 7 8 9 4 5 9 3 0 5 2 9 7 0 8 8 6 2 2 0 8 3 4 6 0 7 0 0 3 9 8 3 2 4 6 7 1 5 6 6 6 8 4 2 8 9 1 6 9 4 0 9 6 9 8 9 4 8 5 7 8 9 1 8 0 6 4 3 6 0 7 0 6 2 7 1 7 3 5 4 8 8 3 8 8 1 1 5 5 7 1 6 8 6 9 2 2 1 7 3 7 6 3 8 3 5 5 9 4 6 4 4 3 0 9 5 9 8 0 8 5 3 6 8 6 4 2 5 6 2 4 9 4 6 3 2 0 2 5 7 3 4 8 7 8 1 0 2 5 8 9 0 4 5 7 2 1 0 5 2 2 5 9 9 5 2 2 4 0 4 6 5 7 2 7 5 4 6 8 4 6 0 2 3 5 5 9 6 8 1 9 3 8 7 8 2 9 3 0 4 9 7 0 4 8 9 2 2 6 0 6 0 6 0 6 1 8 2 8 4 4 0 9 4 8 7 4 9 7 8 3 4 4 1 4 4 5 7 6 5 3 1 6 9 2 5 0 1 2 9 3 4 0 4 4 9 5 2 9 9 5 9 0 3 7 3 8 4 7 2 5 9 0 1 2 5 1 7 3 8 9 6 3 0 0 8 5 4 1 0 9 4 5 6 8 9 7 1 3 8 0 7 7 1 6 3 7 3 0 4 1 7 1 8 0 9 9 9 3 8 6 0 9 3 5 3 5 4 4 1 0 7 5 7 3 5 1 3 4 2 6 2 9 4 5 9 1 4 7 9 3 3 0 6 1 3 0 5 0 8 4 7 8 9 7 8 5 1 9 1 2 1 9 9 9 4 6 2 2 5 2 4 4 2 4 6 7 8 0 8 3 6 7 5 8 0 7 3 0 2 5 4 3 6 7 8 6 5 6 4 8 9 9 9 2 6 4 6 9 8 3 8 5 5 4 0 6 7 8 8 0 0 5 0 0 1 0 4 9 8 3 4 3 9 9 5 7 7 9 1 6 6 2 4 9 9 4 0 2 4 0 0 8 6 9 4 1 5 9 4 7 6 8 8 1 4 3 8 7 8 1 7 4 8 2 5 9 8 2 3 8 9 2 2 9 9 7 2 0 2 4 1 6 7 0 5 1 4 8 8 6 2 1 6 5 4 5 5 9 8 1 6 7 5 3 5 3 5 3 5 6 6 0 9 6 6 3 9 6 9 3 0 4 9 0 7 3 1 6 9 8 1 4 1 9 9 8 5 4 9 8 0 8 6 1 8 0 4 1 6 7 7 5 1 9 9 2 5 3 4 5 5 7 2 6 4 0 1 5 1 8 1 3 4 9 7 4 9 

6 0 3 7 3 6 5 8 0 0 6 4 5 2 2 6 1 0 2 4 1 1 7 1 4 9 0 2 6 4 2 8 8 2 8 5 4 6 9 6 5 5 5 6 8 3 6 4 8 7 8 9 4 5 9 3 0 5 2 9 7 0 8 8 6 2 2 0 8 3 4 6 0 7 0 0 3 9 8 3 2 4 6 7 1 5 6 6 6 8 4 2 8 9 1 6 9 4 0 9 6 9 8 9 4 8 5 7 8 9 1 8 0 6 4 3 6 0 7 0 6 2 7 1 7 3 5 4 8 8 3 8 8 1 1 5 5 7 1 6 8 6 9 2 2 1 7 3 7 6 3 8 3 5 5 9 4 6 4 4 3 0 9 5 9 8 0 8 5 3 6 8 6 4 2 5 6 2 4 9 4 6 3 2 0 2 5 7 3 4 8 7 8 1 0 2 5 8 9 0 4 5 7 2 1 0 5 2 2 5 9 9 5 2 2 4 0 4 6 5 7 2 7 5 4 6 8 4 6 0 2 3 5 5 9 6 8 1 9 3 8 7 8 2 9 3 0 4 9 7 0 4 8 9 2 2 6 0 6 0 6 0 6 1 8 2 8 4 4 0 9 4 8 7 4 9 7 8 3 4 4 1 4 4 5 7 6 5 3 1 6 9 2 5 0 1 2 9 3 4 0 4 4 9 5 2 9 9 5 9 0 3 7 3 8 4 7 2 5 9 0 1 2 5 1 7 3 8 9 6 3 0 0 8 5 4 1 0 9 4 5 6 8 9 7 1 3 8 0 7 7 1 6 3 7 3 0 4 1 7 1 8 0 9 9 9 3 8 6 0 9 3 5 3 5 4 4 1 0 7 5 7 3 5 1 3 4 2 6 2 9 4 5 9 1 4 7 9 3 3 0 6 1 3 0 5 0 8 4 7 8 9 7 8 5 1 9 1 2 1 9 9 9 4 6 2 2 5 2 4 4 2 4 6 7 8 0 8 3 6 7 5 8 0 7 3 0 2 5 4 3 6 7 8 6 5 6 4 8 9 9 9 2 6 4 6 9 8 3 8 5 5 4 0 6 7 8 8 0 0 5 0 0 1 0 4 9 8 3 4 3 9 9 5 7 7 9 1 6 6 2 4 9 9 4 0 2 4 0 0 8 6 9 4 1 5 9 4 7 6 8 8 1 4 3 8 7 8 1 7 4 8 2 5 9 8 2 3 8 9 2 2 9 9 7 2 0 2 4 1 6 7 0 5 1 4 8 8 6 2 1 6 5 4 5 5 9 8 1 6 7 5 3 5 3 5 3 5 6 6 0 9 6 6 3 9 6 9 3 0 4 9 0 7 3 1 6 9 8 1 4 1 9 9 8 5 4 9 8 0 8 6 1 8 0 4 1 6 7 7 5 1 9 9 2 5 3 4 5 5 7 2 6 4 0 1 5 1 8 1 3 4 9 7 4 9 

Preattentive features

Recognition happens at a primitive cognitive level. Your visual system does the heavy lifting without you consciously noticing

Preattentive features

Not all features are equally strong. There are degrees of “pop-out”. The strongest effects are based on orientation, color, contrast & size

Guide attention to the key area

Default Thinkcell settings

All visual clutter removed to emphasize focus

Guide attention to the key area

Default Thinkcell settings

All visual clutter removed to emphasize focus

Take advantage of preattentive features to differentiate and highlight patterns and groups

 Slightly preattentive but shapes are too similar

Preattentive in shape

Preattentive in both shape and color; redundant coding helps easier differentiation

Wrapping

things up

Data  tell Stories

Context  is Everything

Know  your Goal

Measles heatmap: http://graphics.wsj.com/infectious-diseases-and-vaccines/

Gain chart: http://sten.tamkivi.com/2013/05/week-37-small-world-churn-measuring-sales-startup-hr/

Streamgraph: http://antheawhittle.com/post/336352214/this-stream-graph-visualisation-shows-your

Parallel Coordinates: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/19213961/parallel-coordinates-program-written-with-processing-cant-show-anything-in-mac

SOM heatmap: http://www.visualcinnamon.com/portfolio/heatmaps

Facebook Tree: http://www.onformative.com/work/4010-facebook-tree/

Flickr Flow: http://hint.fm/projects/flickr/

The color of paintings: http://blog.martinbellander.com/post/115411125748/the-colors-of-paintings-blue-is-the-new-orange

Buildings in the Netherlands: http://code.waag.org/buildings/

Genome similarities: http://www.swissinfographics.com/archives/308

Data Sweetspot: Cannot remember, sorry

Brazil's demographic opportunity: by Alberto Cairo from The Functional Art

Driving shifts into reverse: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/business/02metrics.html?_r=0

Phone brand Switching: http://www.visualcinnamon.com/portfolio/phone-brand-switching

U.S. Gun Deaths: http://guns.periscopic.com/?year=2013

Apple stock: http://www.nickdiakopoulos.com/2013/09/17/storytelling-with-data-visualization-context-is-king/

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: http://drones.pitchinteractive.com/

Urbanization in East Asia: http://www.visualcinnamon.com/portfolio/urbanization

Brain visualization: http://nxxcxx.github.io/Neural-Network/

General 5 step concept based upon and inspired by Michael Freeman's talk at Strata: http://mfviz.com/strata

Visualization examples:

Visual Storytelling & Psychology

By Nadieh Bremer

Visual Storytelling & Psychology

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