Data Dramatization And Storytelling Design

Published on May 20, 2021
Liviu Moroianu
Data & Research Manager

Great data deals need to be backed up by great deliveries and make the right impression to stakeholders. To do that, you need to go down the rabbit hole into the realm of data storytelling and data dramatization.

“Data Dramatization, as opposed to data visualization, is much more about imbuing a particular data set with levels of emotional attachment, as opposed to just visualization of complexity.” Liam Young - Theorist of architecture and storytelling

This article is about you, as a data-driven professional, delivering real stories about real people, real events, and real numbers placed in emotion-conveying contexts that strike the right emotional chord in your audience. This is not about data dramatization in the artistic or fictional sense.

To get started, compare how the visuals below present research about segmenting audiences for a music festival.

Just facts, no use of storytelling.

Adding data storytelling to facts.

Key (implicit, not explicit) takeaways your audience has after your use of storytelling.

First off, share a data message

Unable to deliver without your notes or slide deck? YOU DO NOT HAVE A MESSAGE. Go back to the drawing board and make sure you have something worth sharing. Share a coherent message that you own, fully understand, and can comfortably explain to a 6-year old in simple terms. Only then you may have a message that strikes the right chord.

Then, connect it to your audience

Your audience is on your side. They are taking time out of their day to listen to what you have to share, right? Build on that, connect, relate, use stories, share accurate facts, share names, and use hooks. To spark this connection share your vulnerabilities, wrong turns in the process of analyzing the data, mistakes, and anything that makes you be... Well... Human.

Pour in some emotional triggers

It is no secret that our emotions are the main driver for what we set ourselves to accomplish. In turn, our emotions are triggered by chemical, almost clock-work-like, reactions. Dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins are all secreted by using functional storytelling. There are plenty of techniques teaching you how to use functional storytelling. So use it!

Stir with positive energy

Get in a positive frame of mind. Smile, use the appropriate humor, and the right level of enthusiasm. Chris Voss, former elite FBI hostage negotiator states that we are up to 31% smarter in a positive frame of mind. Therefore, the mood that we have directly correlates with how efficiently our brain functions. Boost your brain and the brains of your audience. Instantly!

Add a bit of data art

Embellish your narratives while keeping them accurate. Use images with impact, powerful symbols, and suggestive colors. You may use size to signal importance and typography to set the mood. Get playful and explore. Technology is your friend and will help you convey emotion by using the right effects in your data visuals.

Spill no spoilers

Don't rob your audience of the pleasure of discovering your story. You should not overexplain, list boring facts, or provide a list of ready-made recommendations. What you should do, is provide the right context and facilitate understanding in a subtle way, so that your audience gradually discovers those facts and comes to those conclusions.

Serve it with a side of shock and awe

Be bold and hyperbolize by context and scale. Don’t present fictional data. Use impressive comparisons instead. For example, let's imagine this conversation: "Hi Dave! Did you know that during the last 3 years our restaurant chain spent over 5 million dollars on toothpicks worldwide? That’s more than 5 billion toothpicks. Roughly enough for two out of three people on Earth!". Putting things into perspective and making bold and relatable analogies will provide a deeper layer of understanding and higher levels of engagement.

That was quick, right? Hope I managed to increase your appetite for a data-driven story.

This is Liviu. In short, the insights guy.

Research & Data Visualization professional with background in management, marketing and advertising. Market Research & Advertising MA with trainer certification. Coordinated insightful research, reports, presentations and white papers with smart data analysis and editorial quality insights. Experienced data projects and data teams manager overseeing all stages from proposal to delivery.

Check out for more!

Sign up to a free, email mini-course series on the essentials of data literacy, data storytelling and information design! Get in the right mindset and attain critical thinking skills in using data. The information is so condensed and easy to go through you can literally learn it while sipping your morning coffee. ☕