Telling a Story Through ...


We are inundated by information. (How’s that for going out on the limb; hopefully not a precursor for 2010.)

If all or part of that information can be translated into a visual, you strengthen the “consumption” process – particularly in areas of complexity; i.e., technology, cleantech and life sciences.

That’s why, when I projected the expertise of tomorrow’s communications professional, I highlighted “videography, photography and editing skills that exceed your garden-variety postings on Facebook.”

Thanks to rise of digital media, we’ll increasingly see publications expand the definition of visual storytelling.

For example, WIRED has taken to running what are called charticles, a technique which depicts an entire article in visual forum. You can see a perfect example of WIRED’s approach below in the charticle titled “Seafood Express.”

visual storytelling charticle wired fish

Compelling storytelling by WIRED writer Michael Kaplan and illustrator Rafael Macho.

There’s plenty of drama … especially for the fish who don’t know if they’ll make the saltwater tank or get relegated to a sauce until Hour 33.

Looking at the big picture (couldn’t resist), visualization should be part of communications, not just the sole domain of the data jockeys.

If you’re looking to come up the curve in this area, I highly recommend the blog Simple Complexity. The following visualization on land mass and population density provides a sense of what the blog covers:

visual storytelling landmass

I also keep a copy of “The Visual Miscellaneum” by David McCandless on my desk as a brainstorming tool.

Even with tight resources, most media properties prefer to build visuals in their own style (although I’ve been surprised at The Wall Street Journal’s willingness to publish corporate photos).

We’re now experimenting in applying the “B-roll” concept to visual storytelling. In other words, creating the raw frame for say, a charticle, but still leaving room for the media property to take the piece to final.

I’ll report back later in the year on how this progresses.


  • Lucie Bickerdike

    Really nice examples of visualisations. I’ve been looking at the trend a lot recently – my current favourite is this visualisation of donations made to the Haiti crisis.

    It measures each nation’s donation in terms of how many minutes of the movie ‘Avatar’ it would have bought. Crazy idea, but it brings into sharp relief quite how much money the western world spends on film, as opposed to humanitariad aid.

  • Lou Hoffman

    Just looked at the visualization you referenced. I agree it makes for a compelling and cool communications.


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