Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals

My 2017 New Years Resolution to read several design related books each week continues and I am pleased to present Storytelling with Data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic as the next book. I am doing way better with this resolution then others I made, but we can talk about that later.

Storytelling with Data is an extremely insightful book on storytelling with data (whoa… deep, man). As principal user experience designer with nearly 25 years industry experience I have literally watched the emergence of BI, big data and analytics; data visualization represent a key element to the experience design practice. This book is extremely well laid out, concise, provide the perfect amount information and above all, fun to read. The information is logically presented with great detailed. I’ve read many books in my career, this one being by far the one of the most insightful, well presented and easiest to read. I will never again look at data visualizations the same way.

“We chose it because we deal with huge amounts of data. Besides, it sounds really cool.” — Larry Page

As a follower of the popular blog storytellingwithdata, I wasn’t sure if the book would be simply a compilation of her posts but it’s not. Fresh, helpful content, easy and even believe it or no; funny to read at times. Each chapter is a walkthrough of her lesson with excellent examples and visuals. I especially found helpful some of the before and after examples where she applies the lessons.

Storytelling with Data takes a difficult subject and makes it understandable. By itself that would be good and worthy of praise. Clarity is always appreciated. But the author does this by employing the skills, traits, and tricks that she so clearly explains. She implores the reader to eliminate clutter, visually demonstrates why it is important and its potential impact, then strips away at difficult concepts with clear and concise prose again and again. We readily grasp all this because of her use of context, visual display, simplicity, focus, design, and in so doing she tells a story about dealing with data and information, so that we can inform and not confuse. Perfect. But she achieves even more because through the use of these concepts she makes them useful for everyone and not only those dealing with large data sets; she demonstrates that which she illustrates.

I found Chapter Five, Thinking Like a Designer and lessons in storytelling to be more than helpful. From the importance of aesthetics, audience, controlling narrative flow, to repetition she provides lessons in telling stories that can benefit anyone.

“Data is the new science. Big Data holds the answers.” — Pat Gelsinger

More valuable information can be gleaned from Chapter Four, Focus Your Audience Attention which discusses topics like creating visual hierarchy, size, color and other tips to help retain a users’ memory. The chapter includes various tip and tricks to draw the users’ eye and includes some great information to ensure colorblind users have an amazing experience.

All-in-all, the book is a quality read, and I highly recommend this book. I’m actually going to buy copies for my entire team!

Amazon Link