5 Megatrends Fueling the Rise of Data Storytelling
Infographic: The Rise of Data Storytelling
Humanity is creating more data than ever before, and more of that data is publicly accessible.
While “data is the new oil” has almost become a cliché, the impact that data abundance is having on the world is undeniable. All of the world’s most valuable companies are heavily reliant on data for their continued success. Even oil giant Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company, runs a 6,000 m² data center, and is partnering with Google Cloud.
In a world where nearly everything is quantified, communicating insights from that data becomes a massive opportunity. This is where data storytelling comes in. In simple terms, it’s the difference between simply making a chart, and actually explaining what it means, why it’s important, and how it fits into the broader context. This style of data-driven communication is cropping up everywhere, from newsrooms to corporate communications.
Here, we examine five megatrends fueling the rise of data storytelling.
① Information Overload
It’s estimated that between 2015 and 2025, the world will see a 16-fold increase in data.
- The bad news: The rising tide of information is growing faster than our ability to harness it
- The good news: This growing universe of data holds the promise of more insight, if properly utilized
Thankfully, data storytelling is an emerging field that thrives on information abundance.
As our society and economy grow more complex, more high-quality, actionable information is critical for today’s decision makers.
② Declining Trust in Media
Trust in news media has been declining for decades, and in many countries around the world, the majority of people don’t feel that media is a trustworthy source of information.
Trust in social media is similarly shaky. Only one-third of people surveyed around the world believe that social media is a trustworthy source of information. As well, a recent poll found that 75% of U.S. adults felt that political views were likely being censored by social media platforms.
The mass media ecosystem as it currently exists is facing a crisis of confidence. When a system is no longer adequately serving the needs of its users, that system is ripe for disruption.
③ Winner-Take-All Dynamics
This information abundance should be propelling humankind forward, but more often than not, valuable insights are lost in the noise—either poorly presented or pushed to the margins by clickbait and other distractions.
Today, most of us rely on algorithms and aggregators to deliver information to us. Over time, those systems become very good at feeding us information that is generally what we’re looking for. The downside, however, is that engagement-driven algorithms reward only the most compelling narratives. The handful of stories you see are the result of fierce, darwinistic competition on platforms like Twitter or Medium.
This hyper-competitive environment is part of the reason there are so many problems with media today—clickbait and tabloidization being two prominent examples.
Data storytelling takes potentially dry, complex topics and makes them more accessible, compelling, and more likely to win the battle for people’s attention.
④ Moving Beyond Text
Many of our existing systems look the way they do in part because of past technological limitations.
Search engines, for example, are still largely driven by text-based considerations. This makes sense as the early internet was essentially a collection of pages with text and hyperlinks.
Today, search engines are much better taking other forms of information into consideration, and technological advancements are breaking new ground in analyzing video and data visualizations. Advancements in AI could soon allow users to search for visualizations in ways that don’t even involve text keywords.
In a future where searching for information in a visual format is as intuitive as a Google search today, the utility and reach of data storytelling will increase dramatically.
⑤ Democratization of Data Storytelling
Even as the number of people with professional credentials in data analytics, data science, and other similar professions is on the rise, it’s never been easier for laypersons to create and publish high quality visualizations.
Free tools which are usable on almost any device have broken down barriers of access for millions of people around the world. There is now a universe of resources for people and organizations looking to convert data into a compelling visual format.
Below is a shortlist of data storytelling resources ranging from the intuitive design tools to powerful coding language libraries:
|Resources for getting started|
|Visualization selection||Data Viz Project||From Data to Viz||Storytelling With Data|
|Color selection||Adobe Color CC||Paletton||Colors on the Web|
|Bringing data to life|
|Classic||Microsoft Excel||Adobe Creative Suite||Google Data Studio|
|Web apps||RAW Graphs||Flourish||Datawrapper|
|Powerful, specialized resources|
Of course there are many more resources out there, and we’ll be covering this more comprehensively in the future.
The Last Mile
The concept of “the last mile” is typically associated with e-commerce. Fulfillment can be centralized in massive hubs and delivery can be optimized with uniform trucks and precise routes, but neighborhoods and residences refuse to conform to rigid standards. The last mile is where the orderly world of logistics fragments into randomness, making this leg of the journey the thorniest problem for companies like Amazon to solve.
This last mile analogy lends itself to communication as well. Analytics and datasets can be polished and made publicly accessible, but the real world is messy. Humans are unpredictable, each with their own style of learning and varying levels of data literacy.
Also, unlike e-commerce—which begins with a defined request—insight comes in unexpected flashes. Those moments of serendipity need the right conditions to occur, and the fact of the matter is, most sources of high quality information (databases, white papers, reports, etc.) are only accessed by the small number of people who conduct research for a living.
This is the great opportunity presented by data storytelling. High quality information is distilled into a form that is more digestible, memorable, and sharable, allowing more people to benefit from this era of information abundance.
Put simply: data storytelling bridges the gap between under-utilized knowledge and the growing number of people who are striving to separate the signal from the noise.
How Automaker Logos Have Evolved Over the Past Century
Automakers are some of the most recognizable brands in the world. See how car logos for these select brands have evolved over time in this graphic.
How Automaker Logos Have Evolved Over the Past Century
Can you picture Ford’s blue oval, or Mercedes’ three-pointed star? These are some of the most recognizable logos in the world, thanks to a number of reasons.
For starters, automakers are some of the world’s biggest advertisers. In 2020, the automotive industry spent $33 billion on advertising in the U.S. alone.
Automakers also maintain a strong physical presence by placing their logo on every car they produce. This form of self-promotion is an automotive tradition, and because of it, car logos are designed to be eye-catching and memorable.
To learn more, we’ve illustrated the histories of six brands of interest.
Editor’s note: There are obviously many automotive brands with strong histories, but for this visualization we selected brands that we thought had the most interesting stories and graphical decisions behind their emblems. In the future, we may add more or create a follow-up post if readers express interest.
A Closer Look at Car Logos
Automakers often pack hidden meanings and details into their logos.
For example, Mazda’s current logo, introduced in 1997 and updated in 2015, depicts a pair of wings that represent the brand’s desire to “drive powerful, continuous growth.” The concept of flight is believed to embody the company’s pursuit of ongoing improvement. Of course, the wings also resemble a capital “M” for Mazda, similar to Honda’s “H” logo.
An interesting design choice of the Mazda lettering is that all of the letters except “D” are in lowercase. This was done because Mazda wanted to express precision, and a lower case “d” would have protruded above the upper line of the other letters.
Another logo with deeper meaning is Mercedes-Benz’s 3-pointed star, adopted in 1909. This symbol was based off a postcard that Paul and Adolf Daimler, sons of the company founder, got from their father in which the location of their home was marked by a 3-pointed star.
Today, the three points are believed to represent the strength of Mercedes’ engines across land, sea, and air.
Over the past decade, many brands have taken their logos in a more minimalist direction. Many recently redesigned car logos are devoid of any 3D effects or color.
Audi is one of the most prominent examples of this trend. In 2016, it removed the chrome effect on its “four rings” and opted for a flat black version instead. This clean and modern emblem is better suited for digital media and appears more bold. Furthermore, the name “Audi” is no longer included at the bottom—a statement of the four rings’ strength.
BMW took a similar approach with its logo in 2020, stripping away the black outer ring and 3D effect. This minimalist and transparent logo is for “brand communication” only, meaning the logos on its cars will remain unchanged.
Finally, there’s Cadillac, which unveiled its own minimalist logo in 2021. This logo is being used to represent the brand’s full-electric future, and features a monochromatic version of the classic Cadillac Crest.
An Opportunity to Reinvent
The race for EV dominance has provided automakers with the chance to update or reinvent their brands. In addition to the companies mentioned previously, Volkswagen and General Motors (GM) have also rolled out recent updates.
You may have already noticed Volkswagen’s new branding, which was updated in 2019. On trend with the rest of the industry, the company now uses a 2D logo which offers “outstanding flexibility in digital media”.
More importantly, the company’s branding is intended to feel much more colorful and natural, symbolizing a fresh start from Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel-gate scandal.
Shortly after, GM revealed a new logo as part of a campaign to promote its future electric vehicles. Unlike its minimalist competitors, GM’s new logo features a gradient of light blues that evokes “the clean skies of a zero-emissions future”.
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