And now you know why

I spent the last two weekends among kings and witches, foxes and wolves, dumb men and devious women, visiting castles in Scotland and villages in Africa. Two weekends of great storytelling.

One little thing bothered me, though. Explicitly or not, many stories ended with the words “and now you know why”.

And now you know why.

We, the data visualization community, love to talk about visualization as a kind of storytelling but can we honestly say that our visualizations can deliver a good story? Can our audience say, “now we know why”?

We can argue that this “visual storytelling” is nothing more than new-agey mumbo jumbo. After all, we just need to process data, get insights and act. We don’t have to mimic a folktale.

If we do agree that storytelling can help us creating better visualizations, I have a humble suggestion: from now on, each datavis conference should be required to invite a renowned storyteller and let him/her show us what storytelling is really about. I liked Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake by the way.

If you want to improve your charts/infographics/dashboards, here is a simple trick: write, below them, the words “and now you know why”. But first make sure they deserve it.

 

1 thought on “And now you know why

  1. It’s so important to remember the BIG WHY in all the work we do, no matter what our field of endeavor. I like to ask (in my inner child voice) “So what?” of all my work. If my work doesn’t pass this test, then I know it’s time to go back to the drawing board. I think I like your “And now you know why” test even better in that it focuses the “story” in positive and specific terms. Thanks to the storytellers and to you for that!

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