Show, Not Tell: Using Data Visualization


An illustration showing the four steps of data visualization: visualize, analyze, document insights, and transform.

Humans are highly visual learners — data visualization is a dynamic way to contribute to storytelling. Data can be interactive and multidimensional, using customer information, smartphone analytics and designed elements to showcase new facets of an industry. Paradigm’s team utilizes these tools to help convey information that will be sure to stick with our client’s audiences and make a difference with each target market.

Behind the Data

When you think of the word “data,” you may think of line graphs used in the stock market or bar graphs used in client presentations. However, data visualization remains fluid by existing in diverse formats across nearly every industry. Banking, finance, construction, healthcare, education, technology services — you would be hard-pressed to find an industry where data does not influence decision making. Let’s take a closer look at one industry where we worked with them to feature their information with data visualization.

Case Study: Show-Me Institute 

The Paradigm team uses these tools often to customize features, functionality and create user interface elements. One such project was a dynamic interactive map for the Show-Me Institute, a public policy think tank based in St. Louis. This web application features a state map that visualizes data representing public school districts statewide rankings.

Our team utilized web applications such as Ruby on the Rails and GeoJSON to create advanced yet easy to use functionality and visuals. Users were given opportunities to experience the visual, through zooming features, lists and filters. Users could also click on location markers for each school to receive the school district name, ranking and average GPA of the school in addition to a linked out page that outlined information about the annual funding, average incomes and more.

This presentation utilizes all data points while also offering a visual shortcut to make observations about Missouri schools. Visitors that only viewed an overview map perspective may identify which districts need the most aid through color cues. These takeaways influence their support for public policy and help the Show-Me Institute carry out its organizational mission.

Using Data Visualization in Your Business 

Whether you are trying to record history, analyze consumer behaviors or even make changes within business or society, any business may find ways to utilize data visualization tools. While we see these tools often as we consume media, many do not fully realize the process behind creating a visual with impact.

To find the most impactful visual for data, you must go through the following stages.

  • Visualize. First, you must identify the best way to interpret data by condensing the initial data, often into geometric shapes. This could be pie charts, line graphs or a multitude of other formats.
  • Analyze. Once the data is placed into visuals, you can analyze the data for patterns across varying periods of time and conditions. A pattern such as a downward trajectory may add an influential layer to your story.
  • Document Insights. You must document each observation to help you determine the most impactful data sets that you can display in visual formats.
  • Transform. Developers add new formats and interactive elements to data visualization that transform the lens through which your audience views the data. Filters, zooms, mapping and more ultimately change the way people see your data.

Benefits of Presenting Data Visually

A lot of data may be written out in lists or explained in a paragraph — why make it visual? Visualizations strengthen the impact of your messaging, offering multiple ways to consume important data points. They make it easier for our brains to process information by condensing key points and making complex numbers and calculations simple. Rather than looking at the difference between decimals, visuals allow you to quickly understand if a data set is changing or if two data sets are correlated. Making complex topics simple influences audience decision making and changes behaviors, often in your favor.

For example, data visualization tools have been used extensively throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Charts were used to showcase the number of cases and to show the correlation between case numbers and preventative measures such as mask mandates, stay-at-home orders and vaccinations. These tools were crucial to keeping the public informed of the situation around them and influenced their own decisions moving forward.

Work With Us 

Information guides the actions of your audience, making a tangible difference for your business. Paradigm works with you to make the complex things simple by condensing big data sets into digestible visual stories. Contact our team today to start making a difference using data visualization.