data journalism, data visualization, Interactivity

3 good narrative visualisations around human stories

Data visualisations are increasingly using narratives to convey complex information, as Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer discuss on Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data. From a few case studies, they show different storytelling formats -away from the traditional ones- and analyse both the layout and the content.

On this paper, they share some words by Jonathan Harris, creator of We Feel Fine and Whale Hunt, who considered himself a storyteller and visualisation designer, in this order:

“I think people have begun to forget how powerful human stories are, exchanging their sense of empathy for a fetishistic fascination with data, netweorks, patterns, and total information… Really, the data is just part of the story.”

I agree. Nowadays, there are interactive pieces and tools that gather plenty of datasets without a human voice or face. Yesterday, I spent some time reviewing creative agencies websites around the world and spotting some pieces that wrap both data and human stories. Below are 3 good examples:

1.Visualizing Impact: Global Response to Typhoon Haiyan

output_BcXQYPWho? Created by Pitch Interactive.

What? A narrative visualisation depicting the global response through eBay‘s Power of Giving platforms to the typhoon crashed into Southeast Asia.

Where is the story? The first part shows the totally  $23,241,194 in donations filtered by type, amount, time and location. However, after the interactivity, they share stories from people that benefit from this help and how the city was reconstructed.

2. The Wait We Carry: U.S. Veterans Share Their Experiences With V.A. Services


Who? Created by Periscopic.

What? An interactive tool that gathers stories from more than 2 thousand veterans in America and their problems with disability claims and VA health care.

Where is the story? The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) aims to encourage veterans to tell stories through this website.  They already had the data, but they looked for the stories and people who wanted to share their experiences.

3.Qui Sommes Nous. Rennes Métropolis inhabitants


Who? Created by Dataeyes.

What? An interactive visualisation that allows the user to explore data on their neighbourhood filtered by profession, gender, housing, jobs, etc.

Where is the story? From public statistics, they seek to stimulate curiosity and dialogue from the citizens. The user can introduce some personal information such as the gender, if they are living with someone else, children, etc and compare it to other residents in the city.


“To someone who is not in the field [of data newswork], I would say that my job is to look at the data, to look at the mass of the dataset, and to reveal the patterns and see if there is a story behind it. And if there is a story behind it, I want to design a way of telling that story”

Quote from Jan Lauren Boyles and Eric Meyer paper Letting the Data Speak.


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