More Than Numbers—Your Data Doesn’t Need to be Boring

Presented by Chris Seek, web and digital design manager at the Office of the University Controller at the University of Colorado

Chris Seek sees a lot of numbers in any given day. His challenge, he explained during a HighEdWeb session titled “Your Data Doesn’t Need to be Boring,” is how to present those numbers a different way to others.

“The question is how to visualize that data,” Chris said.

He explained that treating data as nothing more than numbers is a traditional interpretation. But Chris stressed that much more can be done with data; communicators can craft a story around it, turning numbers into a narrative.

“Data is more than numbers,” he said. “It’s useful to think of it as information… it’s the foundation of a story. And data [and stories] is everywhere.”

Chris added that a key to telling a strong story with data is presenting the information in the best format. But before choosing a visualization, he asked attendees to consider four factors when crafting a data-based story.

  1. What is your goal, and what are you trying to achieve?
  2. Who is your audience and what will they be interested in?
  3. What is the volume of your data—what information is really required to tell your story?
  4. What is your delivery format?

Chris focused on four types of visualizations during his presentation.

Infographic
Infographics are static, designed elements that include data, copy, and visuals. They often communicate simply and clearly.

Interactive Infographic
These take infographics to the “next level.” Web-based and requiring a developers help, interactive infographics allow users to play with the data and figure out the story on their own terms. These creations often have a long lifespan.

Motion Graphics
Motion graphics can be as basic as simple as text that animates on-and-off a screen. Chris shared that he often uses them to convey policy data and financial information. Unlike interactive infographics, motion graphics are passive.

Video
The final visualization Chris discussed was video; these can incorporate text, motion graphics, animation, and live-action. Often they add a human connection to the story being told by offering an emotional layer. Chris’ example of a well-crafted video data visualization? The award-winning documentary, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.