Weaving data visualization provides value to unique stories
Justin Yu and Emma Edwards
Do you recall a study that had such powerful results that a single graphic alone was enough to communicate the study medication’s value message? How did your stakeholders respond and how did they feel about the medication?
In a fast and ever-changing environment, information is at our fingertips and allows us to find answers to questions in just seconds using simple searches. With an average person’s attention span of 8.25 seconds, each second is thus vital to catch one’s attention. An eye-catching visual has the power to make those few seconds count.
Many studies present results in blocks of text that may be difficult for audiences to interpret or understand key messages. By creating data visualizations, one can transform a presentation into a story to bring evidence to life. Clear and simply-presented data is more memorable and creates a deeper understanding of the evidence for the audience.
So what is the formal definition of data visualization? It is the use of charts, graphs, maps, and other graphics to represent information in a visual format. Some of the earliest healthcare-related examples date back to the mid-1800s and were created by the British nurse, social reformer, and statistician Florence Nightingale. The figures below (Figure 1, Figure 2), for example, demonstrated how poor sanitation and overcrowding for soldiers in the Crimean War caused unnecessary deaths. With convincing statistics and broad press coverage, Nightingale’s data convinced the British government to reform the sanitary conditions of the army and ultimately led to mortality from preventable diseases among soldiers declining to less than that in the civilian population.
Figure 1. Early example of a horizontal bar chart (c. 1850)
Figure 2. Early example of a radial bar chart (c. 1850)
An effective graphic can grab one’s attention, spark curiosity, and create interest in its underlying data. A good visualization also highlights important information while removing noise that may otherwise detract from key findings. Whether simple or complex, the right visualization of a piece of data results in the same understanding of the data regardless of one’s expertise.
An excellent figure in a scientific article or presentation may be worth many words, but oftentimes viewers only need a few words to describe their responses – “I get it,” “makes sense to me,” and“impressive,” just to name a few. A compelling graphic can generate a variety of feelings in viewers about the information it represents, and those feelings are arguably just as important as the data brought to life by the graphic.
How a stakeholder feels about a visualization can influence their opinions and subsequent actions related to the data. As demonstrated in past studies, emotions have a significant impact on how people retain information, what they believe, and their actions. When one creates a graphic, one thus wants the target audience to feel a certain way about the underlying data. Design techniques such as choice of color, imagery, actual or implied motion, and word choice thus have great power in helping one achieve the desired response in the target audience.
Figure 3. Standard vs. enhanced line chart
With the addition of data visualization, the set of information in common data formats such as tables (Figure 3) and charts (Figure 4) can be enhanced with design principles like color and icons. Icons create an association with familiar forms to quickly understand a graph’s topic. The use of color draws in the reader and can create visual categories without the need for vertical lines, thus establishing simplicity.
Figure 4. Standard vs. enhanced line chart
Memorable data tells a story, is insightful, interactive, easy to comprehend, and will ideally contribute to one’s target audience following through on desired actions. At AESARA, we are experts in communicating messages for impactful storytelling. Our team prioritizes creating data visualizations that fit into one’s desired goal (e.g., Figure 5). With an emphasis on crafting visuals during a project’s timeline, we’ve witnessed the power this attention to detail provides to the overall message of an evidence package. Weaving data visualizations into your value stories will enhance research findings, encourage creative thinking with stakeholders and colleagues, and initiate important conversations.
Figure 5. Enhanced patient funnel
Contact us if you would like our help to explore how data visualization can tell your product’s unique story.
*Cover image was generated by AI and refined by AESARA DDX