Data Reddy: On eye-catching summaries

How do you handle a data-driven story? As with any piece of content, the primary message, story structure, and considerations about audience come into play. But data stories beg for visualization. Choosing the right lenses to parse the data, the best order in which to present charts in support of the prose, and the most effective visual format can make the difference between an average and excellent piece. This blog will highlight examples of great data storytelling, along with my thoughts on what makes them work well.

The landing page for a lengthy research report will often include a brief summary of the report and a link to download the PDF. While the landing page may seem like an afterthought, it’s actually the perfect opportunity to entice readers and use data visualization to amplify the key points if readers don’t make it all the way through the report. Here, I’ve highlighted some distinctive treatments that caught my eye.

M&A Report 2024, Bain & Company

Bain’s M&A report page runs counter to the usual approach for such landing pages. All too often, such pages feature a block of text with perhaps one chart sitting under the fold. In contrast, Bain employs two charts at the top right-hand side of the page to boldly illustrate the primary takeaway: buyers and sellers in 2023 could not agree on valuations. It features icons that clearly distinguish buyers from sellers, with dollar and clock symbols creating a quick shorthand. The indexed line chart makes effective use of color and typographical treatment to dramatically visualize the 2022–23 gap. A text description sits to the left of the two charts, briefly describing what the reader will find in the full report. A quick read, and a good teaser!

The State of Organizations 2023, McKinsey & Company

Although located below the fold, this report’s summary page invites the reader into a scrolling experience through the 10 most significant shifts that organizations currently face. Brief but informative text adds detail to the simple data visualizations. If I’d change anything, it might be to reduce the size of the illustrations, which tend to overwhelm the actual content.

‘Visualizing 2024: Trends to Watch,’ Council on Foreign Relations

This trend coverage from the Council on Foreign Relations is not a downloadable report but an article on five significant trends for the year ahead. I find that the interesting charts are justification enough to step outside my summary-page theme and include the piece here. I particularly like the first exhibit depicting the growth of free trade agreements in Asia from 2018 to 2022. It’s easy to see that China is significantly ahead of the United States, raising questions about US economic influence in the region. Be sure to scroll further down and check out the charts on digital threats to elections across the globe and the changing mix of migrants to the US border.

Mary Reddy

Before joining Leff as a senior adviser on data visualization, Mary spent more than 20 years as the data visualization editor for the McKinsey Quarterly, developing data stories for a wide range of industries and publication channels. She brought data insights, visual structure, and UI/UX considerations to static charts, interactives, infographics, multimedia, and conceptual frameworks. Mary studied visual communications at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has a B.A. in fine art from Loyola University, Chicago.

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