Join Bill Shander for an in-depth discussion in this video Repetition, part of Data Visualization: Storytelling.
- [Narrator] Repetition and redundancy in data stories are a compelling tool. Recent research has found that we can achieve measurable increases in memorability of data visualizations with certain types of repetition and redundancy. This redundancy comes in three primary types. First, there is message redundancy, which is when the main conclusion or message is presented in multiple ways. But it's not just about labeling. That same research report found that charts that include a title that explains what the chart's about are much more memorable than those without titles, or with titles that aren't explaining the message of the visualization.
The simplest example is like this where you have a chart, in this case essentially a bar chart, where you see the bar size, which essentially gives you the data value or at least the relative data value, the larger one is larger than the smaller one, but where you also have the number to the right. So I can see, for instance here, that this looks like about 65%, but I also have the data value to the right, so it's telling me that it's 65%. Again, this redundant labeling is a very important way of making your data stories more memorable, and therefore more effective.
Then there's data redundancy, which is when the data itself is presented in multiple ways. Finally there's the repeated use of visual metaphors, and by this I mean the reuse of visual cues to let your audience understand what they're looking at and what it all means. So, let me explain. When you're reading a news article, you're processing text, which really only happens one way. You read a letter at at time. Those sounds form words in your head, one at a time, which form sentences, which become paragraphs, you know what I'm saying. There's one linear way to read a text-based story.
We're actually pretty good at reading words even without all the letters, or with the wrong letters as, you've probably seen those memes online where you see a word that's totally misspelled, or that it's missing half the letters, but you can still read it. We can scan and get the meaning of sentences without a lot of effort. In other words, we know how to read text, we've been doing it all of our lives. But when it comes to learning a user interface like the dashboard of a car as an example, we have to learn what the different components are, how to read them, what it means when the gauge is high or low, or to the left or the right. What does that light mean, et cetera.
When you're telling stories with data using visual forms, you have to keep this in mind. As natural as story-telling is, and story-hearing, you have to always remember that visual story reading is not always an intuitive experience. You should strive to create visuals that are as intuitive as possible, but always recognize that depending on how complex a story you're telling, how new and different your visualization will be, and how sophisticated your audience is, you'll likely be teaching your audience how to read your data story. As I've already mentioned, the best way to help your audience is with great labeling.
Another technique is the thoughtful use if repeated visual metaphors. When you repeat the use of certain shapes, colors, and chart forms throughout a piece, you allow your audience to learn something new once, and then reinforce that learning throughout, which will increase the understanding of your story and has the added benefit of improving their memory as well. You've probably heard the aphorism about how to present something. First, tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them, or the idea that you have to see an ad seven times before it will have an effect on you.
Humans are dense, and you need to repeat things for them to have a short at getting through, especially in today's media saturation reality. So, repeat your message, repeat your data, repeat your visuals.
Join data visualization expert Bill Shander as he guides you through the process of turning "facts and figures" into "story" to engage and fulfill our human expectation for information. This course is intended for anyone who works with data and has to communicate it to others, whether a researcher, a data analyst, a consultant, a marketer, or a journalist. Bill shows you how to think about, and craft, stories from data by examining many compelling stories in detail.
- Creating a narrative structure for data
- Applying narrative to data
- Identifying what you want to say with the data
- Analyzing what your data is saying
- Determining what your audience needs to hear
- Leveraging tables, charts, and visuals
- Ensuring your narrative provides context and direction