How Data Storytelling Builds Empathy


pexels-photo-1181623        Imagine being tasked to uncover and deliver findings on a niche topic that is new and uncharted among your audience. Let’s say you have been tasked, as a researcher, to explore the behaviors and attitudes of people living with Celiacs Disease for the product development of a new gluten detector. Although your audience is familiar with gluten-free food, they are unaware of the nuances that separate gluten-free ‘fadist’ from people living with an autoimmune disease that requires a gluten-free lifestyle. How will you illustrate the differences between the lifestyles once uncovered? How will you distinguish the lifestyle of a person living with Celiac from other dietary limited lifestyles?

        Consider data storytelling through a visual and interactive report. In an effort to convey the distinctions between people living with an autoimmune disease and people trying a new weight loss diet, visuals of users telling their own story can build empathy among your audience. At times, data can be stark and harsh with lots of numbers and minimal context. Don’t worry, a visual or interactive report creates space for context to support findings and nuances which provides your audience with the opportunity to connect with users in a robust way.

        Show and tell; Storytelling is the act of sharing cultural and social narratives. Video of users sharing their stories or interactive experiences highlighting user behavior is engaging, insightful and dynamic for product and brand teams.

Benefits of data storytelling:

  • Storytelling allows an audience to consume the information at their own pace.

  • Highlights the complexities of user’s behaviors and attitudes along with their environment rather from the user’s perspective and tone.

  • Creates dialogue among your intended audience to discuss potential design solutions rather than solely the problem.

Storytelling is best used when:

  • Delivering data on a sensitive topic, such as the intricacies of race relations in the workplace.

  • When introducing niche users to your audience, such as individuals with Celiac Disease.

  • Intended audience is a mix of roles, backgrounds and experiences; product and brand team members.

The core elements of data storytelling:

  • Impactful visual storytelling includes videos, user lifestyle photography, and supporting research studies.

  • Immersive interactive storytelling includes bringing the user and their environment to the audience through design exercises, moderated panels, and digital narratives.

  • Illustrate tangible user insights and takeaways for designers, engineers and marketers.

       Although, data storytelling can be costly and experimental, however, the ability to generate change in a team’s mindset and product development is invaluable. Creating empathy through storytelling can lead to more inclusive products, and more inclusion yields more revenue. Through generating empathy through data storytelling, we can help to ensure that products are inclusive and accessible to all kinds of users. 


READ MORE: Company Branding Through the Art of Effective Storytelling, Visualizing Big Data, Accessibility in UX Design, The Power of User Culture Immersion