I just finished watching a TED presentation by David McCandless entitled “The Beauty of Data Visualization” and he did a wonderful job of demonstrating the power of information graphics to encourage learning and provide meaningful perspective around the data that we are doused with on a daily basis. You can see his presentation here.
He made a number of great points and I want to specifically mention two ideas he discussed:
“We’re all demanding a visual aspect to our information”
David states that we’re all suffering form information overload and I think we can all agree to that. He also points out that we have the capacity to quickly absorb much more information visually than we can verbally and that consuming data visually is “effortless” compared to consuming it by words alone. He describes it this way: “If you’re navigating a dense information jungle, coming across a beautiful graphic or a lovely data visualization is a relief. It’s like coming across a clearing in the jungle.”
I think that’s a very true statement when we think about asking prospects to consume a 3+ page case study or white paper that includes the odd photograph, but doesn’t provide any visual images that help to tell the key points of the story and allows them to quickly grasp the information that they want to consume. In our work with clients, we integrate easy-to-grasp images and animations that make the studies and white papers easier to consume and help to improve retention of the key points, whether how the solution was implemented or the top business results that were achieved.
The Need for Relative Figures
David points out that individual data points are often much less useful than when they are put into context with other relative figures. He uses a graphic called the “$Billion Dollar o-Gram” to illustrate the relative size of large dollar amounts that were mentioned in news stories related economics, charity, military spending, etc. It’s very powerful in terms of its ability to communicate points such as how little is spent on aid vs. the military.
In a much smaller way, I think when we incorporate data points into our studies and white papers, it’s important to provide the right relative information to prospects to help them understand the importance of them. For example, a cost savings of $1 million sounds impressive, but it’s much more impressive if you can say the savings came from a previous cost basis of $3 million (i.e. 33% savings) or if you can say the savings was achieved in just 4 months post implementation.
If you have 20 minutes to spare, I'd definitely recommend watching David's presentation.