The Importance of Visualizing Data Through Graphics

Kristine Wager Infographic

Content is King, right? Wrong. GOOD content is King. Boring content is worse than a queen with a penchant for beheading. How do you make sure you’ve got a royal flush when it comes to content marketing and telling your brand's story? Use the data.

Relevant, compelling data is THE thing that tells your organizational story and tells an audience what it is that makes your project unique – especially in the nonprofit world. If you want your story to have depth and pull on more than just heartstrings, you have to use the numbers. Gone are the days of human interest stories and photography (compelling as it may be) dominating the donor landscape. Yes, of course your audience will always want to hear about how your projects are improving quality of life, and they will definitely want to see high-quality images showing the impact of your projects improving beneficiary quality of life, but more than that: donors want proof that your projects work. 

More specifically: proof that is visually compelling. No more copy and pasting black and white tables and charts fro an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document and calling it a day. If you want impress, tell visual data stories through infographics. Online visual content is more popular than ever – it’s increased nearly ten thousand percent in the last decade. Why? The short answer is because it’s easy: 

We receive five times more information today than we did in 1986 – more than 100,000 words outside of work every day. Audiences are tired of consuming black type on white background. The human brain can interpret an image in 1/10th of a second. Instead of wasting your audience’s time (and brainpower) on yet another wordy report, give them some eye candy. And, since we live in a health-conscious world, give them the veggie-version of eye candy: data visualization. 

Here are the three basic steps to expanding your impact through graphic data illustration:

1. Know your audience.

Bigger isn’t always better. Don’t simply include your biggest numbers: use the right numbers. What is the impact you want to prove to your audience? What do THEY want to hear about? How can you make that visual? Flow of information is important: does the data being charted tell a story?

2. Keep it simple.

Please don’t take away from this article that you should throw out all of your graphs; in fact, if pie charts, scatter boards and bar graphs are in your wheelhouse, great! Think strategically about how you can merge all of those graphs into one cohesive illustration, style it, and throw in some fun extras. 

3. Top it off with Flair

Make sure the infographic reflects your brand. The style, colors and feel of the visual should carry over brand identity to your audience. One fun way to personify and add an element of playfulness to any infographic is by using icons. Icons are a great tool: they’re simple, easily understood, and aesthetically pleasing. Most icons are monochromatic and can be tailored to any brand color scheme and can also be modified in style (i.e., angular or rounded edges; outlined or silhouetted). 

If you are in the global humanitarian field, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (UN OCHA) created a set of 500 freely available humanitarian icons in 2012 to help relief workers present information about emergencies and crises quickly and simply. Access OCHA’s complete library of icons here

How can you take a set of data and turn it into visual compelling imagery to promote your next campaign, prove your worth to new clients and donors, or just to say hey to your audience?

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Kristine Wager is the Principal Consultant at KWMedia. She has worked in the communications field as a writer, field photographer, graphic designer, print layout designer and knowledge management specialist on major international projects. Kristine has developed her skills while giving a voice to multi-national global organizations. She's a storyteller.