Data Storytelling vs Data Visualisation: Is There a Difference?

Data Storytelling vs Data Visualization: Is There a Difference?

Data is everywhere—most businesses today have access to data with which to generate insights, but they’re struggling to work with it and maximise it effectively. There remains a wealth of untapped resources and it’s up to businesses to put them to profitable use. 

This is where data storytelling comes into play. When discussing this topic, it’s important to distinguish it from an interdisciplinary field that it’s often associated with: data visualisation. While closely related, the two are distinctly different and have separate yet complementary roles to play in decision-making. 

How to Tell a Story with Data?

Understanding and translating data into meaningful insights is crucial and so is communicating that information to your audience. 

Storytelling with data is an effective way to communicate key insights clearly, driving change and inspiring action towards the success of the business. A compelling data story explains how and why data changes over time and communicates insights that deliver value—often through narratives and visuals. Here, the goal of a data analyst is not to communicate with another data analyst, but with decision-makers who may not have the same level of understanding as them. 

What is Data Visualization? 

As indicated above, a good data story needs visuals. 

Data visualisation is any data that is represented using a chart or graph. It’s a standard business tool that has advanced in recent years, enabling businesses to visualize data on a bigger scale and with greater clarity. It’s used to support a story, providing context, drawing attention to key insights, and engaging your audience. 

How Data Visualization Complements Data Storytelling 

Visuals play a critical role in telling a story and communicating key information. However, a data story is what puts those visuals into context and conveys why it matters and what actions to take. 

In other words, storytelling uses visualizations to connect the audience with data. Data visualizations, on the other hand, support the story by presenting the findings in an easy-to-digest format. In many cases, the most effective way to tell a story is to present the right data in the right visual format. 

Be careful about using visuals, though. With too many graphs and charts, your story can easily become confusing due to the lack of context and correlations. Much of the skills in data storytelling involves knowing when to use visuals and identifying whether certain figures are better written in hard numbers or in some other means of explanation. 

Like many other creative processes, creating a data story with visuals can be deconstructed into a few steps. Among other things, it should include the following elements: 

  • Relevant data 
  • Digestible visuals 
  • Compelling narrative

In conclusion, visuals play a significant role, but they do not convey the whole story. Together, data storytelling and data visualization are powerful tools that support businesses in decision-making by unlocking the full potential of data. They pull key insights into focus for key decision-makers in the organization. 

How will you compare data storytelling with data visualization? Let us know by leaving a comment below.