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"An infographic is not a visual list..."

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Capability, Engagement, Inspiration

Notes from a data storytelling mini-conference by Rob Adey from the BIS Internal Communications team.

There were some interesting speakers at the Data Storytelling event at the National Audit Office yesterday, run by Nick Halliday (NAO head of digital) and Martin Nichols and Nick Bryant from the Office for National Statistics.

Updated - now with a link to all the presentations.


A useful definition from ONS infographic guidelinesAn infographic is a self-contained visual story, presenting information, data or knowledge clearly, with meaning and context, and without bias.

An infographic is not a visual list, a group of large numbers with supporting graphics, a collection of stats, or codependent on another release, article or report.

(Aside: I think the kind of things we usually get asked to do at BIS are not infographics...)

Time and resources

ONS treat infographics as collaborative processes, involving at least 4 people (see p1 of their guide). And the Financial Times’ Martin Stabe explained that the FT data journalism team, even though they work in a news organisation, do the majority of their projects over weeks or even months. (Sometimes they work very fast in reaction to news, of course, but their major projects are planned around foreseeable events/stats releases.)


Data visualisations can be incredibly popular, especially when they are interactive and can be personalised to the user (what do the stats say about your area, your demographic, your child’s school?) and shareable on social media. This US dialect map was the most popular item on the New York Times website last year -  even though it wasn’t published until 21 December.

(Aside: It will be interesting to see if we can create personalised and interactive content with our new BIS IT system when it launches)


Two things from Nick Smith of Geckoboard’s  presentation:

1.  Avoid ‘vanity metrics’ – things like web hits – because they’re not actionable. They might tell you your traffic is up or down, but they don’t tell you anything about why. See Eric Ries on this issue.

2. Geckoboard’s entire business is making  dashboards  for other people. The dashboard Geckoboard they themselves use displays precisely 2 metrics.

It was a really great session and all food for thought!

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