No more boring data

by Julian Westaby.

As ‘information-architects’ we’re fascinated in the way that statistics and ‘graphs’ are represented. The reason for this is that if information is shown in a clear and well-designed way, it’s relevant, it’s used more and as you’ll see below, it can help to make a real difference. Over the past few years, you could be forgiven that the oft-talked-about online design phenomenon of ‘Infographics’ was something new. In effect, good designers have been getting paid to make boring statistics and information look exciting (but more importantly, have real relevance) since written communications began.

It’s set us thinking though, as our clients are bombarding their employees with ever more sophisticated information (and more of it), how can we help them make sense of this myriad information, on multiple platforms? Definitely, it’s been presenting our clients with some amazing opportunities to change perceptions of what they do and how they do it, both internally and externally.

It’s for this reason that we find the work of Hans Rosling to be so interesting. Professor Rosling’s widely recognised as one of the leading ‘thinkers’ in the World and Gapminder is a dynamic information tool he’s developed which allows people to look at freely-available statistics, in an entirely new way. It allows everyone to use statistics in ‘real time’ but also ‘design’ them, to make them much more interesting and…FUN! We’ve never been particularly precious about ‘owning’ the ability to do nice design things. In our eyes, if areas of gorgeous design, clever typography and considered use of colour can become accessible to everyone, this has to be a good thing. As Google took ownership of the software Mr Rosling’s Gapminder Foundation uses in 2007, obviously they agree with us!

With most organisations talking internally by using company Intranets and more sophisticated CRM Share Point Platforms, the fact that you’ve got to present information to audiences in an interesting way has now become a bit of a ‘given’. As well as having nice photography and well thought-out ‘words’ it’s also a prerequisite that your ‘graphs’ and ‘stats’ are designed in a nice way.

As we’re moving into a dynamic age of ‘real-time’, instant communication, the ability to present your organisation’s information quickly, cleverly and dynamically is the thing that’s going to make you stand out from the competition.

Technology is moving so quickly and pie-in the sky ideas such as 3D presentation, which would have seemed futuristically bonkers only a few years ago, well, they’re here! So, it’s time to put some real thought into how you present, to everyone. We’ll help, if you like!

Hans Rosling is what you’d call ‘ahead of the game’ here. Rather than us try to describe what he does, have a look for yourself. His recent television appearance, The Joy of Stats represents his work very erm…graphically. It shows that ‘statistics’ are far from last-Century’s fad. They’re more relevant than ever. In the case of Gapminder, if they’re presented well, they’re going on to help change the world.