Draw and Write Your Data Story

by Jack Dougherty, Stacy Lam, and David Tatem, last updated February 20, 2017

Before you dive deeply into software, think about the most important item in your toolkit: your story. The primary reason we're designing visualizations is to improve how we communicate our data story to other people, so let's begin there.

Push away the computer and pick up some old-school tools:

  • colored markers or pencils
  • lots of blank paper
  • your imagination

First, at the top of the page, write down your data story.

  • Is it in the form of a question? If so, figure out how to pose the question.
  • Or maybe it's in the form of an answer to that question? If so, spell out your clearest statement.
  • If you're lucky, perhaps you already can envision a full story, with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Whatever form it takes in your head, write out the words that come to mind.

Further down the page (or on a separate sheet), draw quick pictures of the visualizations that comes to your mind, even if you don't yet have any data. No artistic skills are required. Just use your imagination.

  • Do you envision some type of chart? Sketch a picture.
  • Or do you imagine some type of map? Show what it might look like.
  • Will your visualization be interactive? Insert arrows, buttons, whatever.

Finally, share your data story with someone else and talk through your preliminary ideas. Does your sketch and sentences help to convey the broader idea that you're trying to communicate? If so, this is one good sign that your data story is worth pursuing, with the visualization tools, templates, and techniques in other chapters of this book.

Data Visualization For All is copyrighted by Jack Dougherty and contributors and distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may freely share and modify this content for non-commercial purposes, with a source credit to http://DataVizForAll.org.
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