Chart none of the things

January 16, 2015

Topic

Design  / 

When it comes to storytelling, copious amounts of data often means lots of charts. Sometimes though, a chart isn’t what you need. Sarah Slobin, a graphics editor for the Wall Street Journal, talks about such an experience. The urge was to chart all the things, but in the end, there was a better route.

Losing the graphics made sense to all of us on the project. What worked best for the story won out, as it should. We didn’t need graphics for the sake of graphics, especially graphics that weren’t working in service of the piece. And photos, while not numbers, are also data in their own right. My own internal calculus, data = charts, was based on habit and that habit had become like armor over time, I put it on without thinking before trudging off to battle. So now, at the outset of each project, I’m working on learning to be really honest with myself each time I sort through a set of statistics; “What does the reader really need here?” Not, “What cool thing can I do with these data?”