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Storyboarding for Data Visualization


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Borrowing from the communications and media experts, storyboarding is one of my favorite approaches to work through a data visualization design with a team. First identify your audience & what your data story is, then map it out visually to come to a common understanding of what your team is designing.

Published in: Data & Analytics
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Storyboarding for Data Visualization

  1. 1. On Storyboarding as a Data Visualization Tool A Process for Distilling Long Reports into Data Visualization Products What are storyboards? › A graphic representation of how a video or visualization will unfold. › Focus on storytelling, plot, flow, and perspective. › Often look like comic strips. › Can be very detailed and visual or more basic sketches. Why storyboarding as a data visualization design tool? Communications experts and video designers frequently use a visual, frame-by-frame representation of their message or plot line as a way to map out how they want their final product to flow. For data visualization enthusiasts, the storyboarding process can be a great way to work with a team to pull the key messages and data elements (“story points”) out of a long report or set of documents and arrange them in sequence to tell your data story. Why does this step matter? This process helps you transition from a long report and abstract ideas about making an inforgraphic or other product to tangible plans. They make it easier for you to share and explain your vision with your team and/or a designer and, as a result, facilitate collaboration and ensure that all of your collaborators are on the same page. They emphasize usability and clarity of content and can ultimately save you time. So now I have a bunch of post-its on paper lined up with sketches. What do I do next? Great work! You’ve done the thinking around how to tell your story and what elements you want to visualize. You can use the storyboard you’ve created to make a slide deck that someone could use for a highly visual presentation, to work with a designer (or a free tool, like Piktochart) to design an infographic, or create a video based on the frames you’ve mapped out.. Let’s practice… Imagine you are a researcher who has just completed a mid-term evaluation. Your team has worked hard to write your 50 page evaluation report, and even summarized your key data points into a fact sheet. Now, you want to create an infographic to include in a blog post to spark interest from other implementers by visually telling the story from one of your project sites. You have a two page example of key findings in a fact sheet from the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative provided by the facilitators. Follow the steps outlined above (highlight key points, post-it, organize, brainstorm visualizations) to create your own storyboard. A simple process from moving from report to storyboard: 1. Highlight Read your full narrative document and highlight key data points or messages. What jumps out at you? What would your audience want to learn about? You can do this simultaneously with a team or on your own. 2. Post-its Write each message or statistic that you higlighted on a post-it note. 3. Arrange the storyboard Arrange the post- its in sequence on a large flip chart. Start thinking through how this story would unfold on an infographic, in a video, or on a slidedeck: what would you want your audience to know first? Are there any post-its that you don’t need (because they just add clutter) or anything missing that you should look for in the document or from another data source? 4. Brainstorm visualizations Think about how you’d visualize each piece of information on an individual post-it and draw small sketches of what that storypoint could look like. Don’t aim for perfection here (we’re not all artists) & try different ideas.