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Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals

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Don't simply show your data — tell a story with it!  Storytelling with Data teaches you the fundamentals of data visualization and how to communicate effectively with data. You'll discover the power of storytelling and the way to make data a pivotal point in your story. The lessons in this illuminative text are grounded in theory, but made accessible through numerous real-world examples — ready for immediate application to your next graph or presentation. 
Storytelling is not an inherent skill, especially when it comes to data visualization, and the tools at our disposal don't make it any easier. This book demonstrates how to go beyond conventional tools to reach the root of your data, and how to use your data to create an engaging, informative, compelling story. Specifically, you'll learn how to: 
Together, the lessons in this book will help you turn your data into high impact visual stories that stick with your audience. Rid your world of ineffective graphs, one exploding 3D pie chart at a time. There is a story in your data — Storytelling with Data will give you the skills and power to tell it.

288 pages, Paperback

First published October 7, 2015

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About the author

Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

6 books107 followers

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5 stars
3,147 (53%)
4 stars
2,102 (35%)
3 stars
558 (9%)
2 stars
82 (1%)
1 star
23 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 637 reviews
Profile Image for KVG.
69 reviews1,290 followers
April 23, 2019
This book is super-useful for anyone dealing with data of any size or scope. It’s clear, practical advice backed by insight into how the human brain works.

As I’ve worked on improving my visual communication skills, I’ve gotten better at including visuals such as graphs. However, I tend to stop there — “okay, I have a graph; visual checkbox ticked off!” — which is necessary but not sufficient. Just because I’ve visually outlined information does not mean I have done so in a way that’s best for my audience, or in a way that best conveys the point I’m trying to make.

My favorite parts where when Nussbaumer Knaflic would present a first version of a data visualization, then walk through her principles of removing clutter, highlighting only key data, and telling a story. She changes the visual with each principle, and every iteration shows how more clarity emerges. The before and after comparisons really grounded for me how much all this matters. I wish I could go through old data visualizations I made and re-do them with this book (I may try and do so from memory using these tactics, just for my own purposes and practice).

The only reason it doesn’t get 5 stars is because I reserve that rating for books that make me think about the world at large differently. This will make me think about business, communication, data, and visuals differently. Would give it 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Tim.
144 reviews17 followers
March 29, 2016
Ever since I read The Visual Display of Quantitative Information when it came out in the 1980's, I have been awed by the power of a really good graphic to communicate insight. From time to time I pick up a book on the topic to find tips to help me improve my information design skills.

I have not seen a better introduction to the subject of data visualization for storytelling than Storytelling with Data. The audience is clearly analysts using basic tools (think Excel) who are new to the subject. The author patiently steps through the process, starting with consideration of the context (target audience, objective, format, etc.) and selection of the appropriate chart format. Perhaps the best discussion is on eliminating clutter, focusing the viewer on key elements, and other design considerations. She provides many examples and explains the cognitive considerations behind each design choice.

My reason for rating it 4 instead of 5 stars is that the book does not get far beyond the basics and only considers a narrow range of format options.
December 29, 2021

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I'm new to project leadership so I've been trying to read at least one book about managing, data, and design every month to get fresh ideas about how to do my work and where to take my career (hence my new Goodreads shelf, tech-boss-babe-reading-list). STORYTELLING WITH DATA went on sale recently for $4.99 and I decided to snap it up since graphs and charts aren't exactly my strongest point as someone who tends to be more verbal and less mathematically inclined.

Some of the complaints for this book are that it teaches the basics. That might be disappointing for people who take to this sort of thing easily or have been doing it for years, but for newbies like me, it's really great. I like how the author included "before" and "after" examples, as well as examples of what "good" and "bad" displays of data look like.

My one complaint is that she doesn't really talk about tools. She says it's to make the stuff he talks about more relevant to everyone, by keeping things simple, and she does link to templates and other sources that give more in-depth how-tos with specific software, but I guess I was kind of hoping for a "Graphing on Excel for Dummies" checklist, so I will admit to being a little disappointed.

Overall, though, this has some really great lists of what to do and what not to do and it will help people who do not think abstractly or mathematically tell "stories" with data in a way that makes sense.

3.5 to 4 stars
Profile Image for Michael Scott.
725 reviews131 followers
July 14, 2018
TODO full review:
--- Overall, yet another book about information visualization. There is nothing bad in it, but also there is nothing particularly new, or particularly good, or particularly inspiring.
+ Summary: take the idea of storytelling being the most important part of communication (many sources, including authors of excellent books on presentations Scott Berkun and Nancy Duarte, plus pop-science authors Simon Sinek and Chip Heath), combine with the idea of communicating in visuals (Edward R. Tufte's Envisioning Information as trailblazer, but then also many popular and more accessible books from Stephen Few, Nathan Yau, etc.).
--- Data means for this author merely classic charts, and visualization is much about de-cluttering these classics in ways already proposed by others. Extracting knowledge and actionable information are given lip-service.
--- One more thing that should also bug you: when the author tells you to focus on the story, and push it through visual means, the author effectively tells you how to manipulate people viscerally. That is done by all information visualization, but particularly so by visualizations that use knowledge from cognitive sciences, such as the role of color and gestalt positioning on the brain, to persuade. What is missing? The warning signs concerning the ethics of this, and making sure you test the ethics of what you do before publishing the graph. There are many authors on information visualization cautioning about this; for an example, read Albert Cairo The Truthful Art.
+ The author has been part of the Project Oxygen at Google, about understanding what makes good managers for making successful the people and projects in global-systems engineering. There is even a nice endorsement by Laszlo Bock. (She's a good practitioner, he says, and she is also good with teaching others how to do this stuff. But has she has created in this book "a complement to the work of data visualization pioneers"? If not, why not simply get one of the books of Stephen Few, Nathan Yau, or Alberto Cairo?)
Profile Image for Rana Heshmati.
511 reviews757 followers
December 7, 2021
این کتاب واقعا یه هدف متمرکز داره، که بهتر نشون دادن نمودارها و به صورت کلی داده‌ها، در انواع ارائه است. و این کار رو به بهترررررین نحو ممکن انجام می‌ده. جزو کتاب‌های شگفت‌انگیزیه که خوندم و دیدم.
+ خود کتاب یک نمونه زیبای کاریه که داره میگه انجام بدین.
ترجمه خوب، صفحه بندی قشنگ و دقیق. همه چیزش رو دوست داشتم.
175 reviews6 followers
July 14, 2017
As the amount of data we generate grows exponentially, it is increasingly important that we can make sense of it for decision making. To do this we need to be able to use data visualisation to discover the story, the insight, behind the raw data.
Knaflic sets out six key points for effective storytelling using data: start by understanding the context and choosing an appropriate method to visualise the data. Then focus attention on the key points and eliminate clutter. And adopt user-centred design thinking to tell a story.
Given the number of times we see confused and confusing charts, there are many who would benefit from the tips in Knaflic’s book. However given much of this is available online (for example from sites like https://infogram.com/examples/charts) Knaflic needed to provide more indepth insights.
While Knaflic provides many practical tips, her analysis is shallow. The book would have been more meaningful if it had included greater commentary and examples – perhaps even a decision tree – on what data visualisation techniques work most effectively for what type of information.
And a major omission is the role and use of infographics as a way to provide engaging, data driven storytelling.
So a practical guide for more effective charting but one which falls short of its broader goal of data visualisation for story telling.

Profile Image for Diogo Sá.
7 reviews4 followers
August 2, 2018
Storytelling with data is a great book for anyone who desires to grasp the basic concepts behind communication with data. From general understanding of the different types of graphs to pick from to showcase different stories, to learn how to declutter and improve your creations, this book gives you great insights. It is a fun, enjoyable and easy to read book.
Profile Image for Makmild.
476 reviews84 followers
August 25, 2022
หนังสือที่ควรมีติดบ้าน เวลานึกไม่ออกว่าต้องเอาข้อมูลมาทำเป็นกราฟไงก็เปิดไปเลย

Q : ไม่ได้ทำงานด้าน data อ่านดีมั้ย
A : อ่านก็ได้ไม่อ่านก็ได้ เราก็ไม่ได้ทำงานด้าน data แต่ชอบเก็บข้อมูลนู่นนี่ในชีวิตแล้วก็เอามาทำเป็นกราฟเพื่อวิเคราะห์ตัวเอง การได้อ่านเล่มนี้ก็ช่วยทำให้เราเห็นภาพง่ายขึ้นว่าเวลาจะทำกราฟออกมาเพื่อสื่อสารควรทำอย่างไรให้เข้าใจง่าย

จริงๆ อ่านเล่มนี้ไม่ยากเลย ไม่ต้องอ่านตั้งแต่หน้าแรกจนหน้าสุดท้ายก็ได้ อ่านเฉพาะจุดที่เราสนใจหรือจุดที่เราติดก็ได้ มันเป็นเหมือน handbook ไว้เปิดเวลาคิดงานไม่ออกจริงๆ ซึ่งเราว่ามันดีมาก หรือเอาไว้ฉุกเฉินจะต้องทำพรีเซนต์แล้วต้องเตรียมตัวอย่างไร เล่มนี้ก็ช่วย

นอกจากนั้นท้ายเล่มยังมีเว็บอื่นๆ ไว้อ้าง���ิงหรือเราไปดูกราฟเพื่อเอามาประยุกต์ใช้ได้อีกด้วย หรือเราสามาถเข้าไปดูในเว็บไซต์ของคนเขียนก่อนก็ได้ ทำเว็บออกมาได้ดีมาก https://www.storytellingwithdata.com/...
Profile Image for Erik.
18 reviews
May 31, 2023
Ble litt distrahert av den pretensiøse business-streiting-språkdrakten («leverage a friend for their fresh perspective» 🥲).

Men: datavisualisering mestrer forfatteren til gangs, masse bra tips og inspirasjon.
Profile Image for Ha Pham.
Author 2 books16 followers
November 10, 2018
One of the most important books I read this year. It's the kind of inspiring book that open your eyes and make you see the world differently. It also makes you a much better and nicer person, and will help you go to heaven when you die, because by finishing this book you will treat the audience of your visualizations with love and respect. Your data, your story, your friends, your colleagues, your clients... all of them deserve better.

100/10 recommended.
Profile Image for Joakim Ljungren.
4 reviews3 followers
March 3, 2017
Coming from a design background, I was looking for more of something that could be relevant to UI design. I guess this book targets business people more than designers and I think ways to apply her ideas mainly concerns static powerpoint presentations rather than interactive user interfaces.

My take-away is the storytelling chapter. Other than that, it's basically just usability principles redefined in a business context.
Profile Image for Adam.
214 reviews11 followers
March 3, 2019
An absolutely fantastic book and a must read for anyone who is doing any sort of data analytics. The author has an awesome simplistic style not only in her data visualization but also in her writing. The book was powerful and concise in its messaging. I don't think a single word in the book was superfluous, and the author does an amazing job of walking you step by step in how you can have that same power in communicating with data.
43 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2021
Для тех, кто ранее особо не задумывался и не читал о визуализации - отличная вообще книга! Для тех, кто постоянно рисует слайды и графики, удобно просмотреть и забрать для себя новые приемы и советы. Забрал штук 5 идей, что для 1 книги неплохо. Отлично структурированно и полно примеров.
Profile Image for Brenda.
52 reviews4 followers
August 26, 2019
Great book!! Lots of great reminders, and excellent points! Lots of us use data to help our clients (internal and external) but most of us don’t have formal training on how to make sense of it, and help our audience understand it. Like any other type of communication, you need to think about your audience and be organized. Very great read!
Profile Image for Hojjat Sayyadi.
159 reviews10 followers
February 14, 2022
اگه تو کار آمار و ارقام و مصور سازی داده ها هستید این کتاب رو حتما بخونید حتی اگه دکترای آمار هم باشید!!
خانم نافلیک با یک دیدگاه مختص خودش به مصورسازی داده ها میپردازه. من یکی که خوشم اومد
Profile Image for Tuncay Özdemir.
231 reviews47 followers
August 24, 2020
I've read a few more books on this topic before. Some points in this book contradict what I have read before. For example, in the book "Say it with Charts" I read before, pie chart was suggested in the representation of the components that make up the parts of the whole. In this book, it is suggested to avoid visualizations such as pie chart or donut chart and to focus on alternatives.

According to the author, it seems very important to focus especially on the story to be told. The graphs to be displayed can vary significantly depending on the story to be told. Furthermore, color, size and font used stand out as factors that determine where the audience should pay attention.

It is especially nice to use the 3-act rule in the cinema while telling the story and the gestalt theory while drawing attention to the points we want to emphasize, and to touch the scientific side of the work. As the author says, this is both science and art.
Profile Image for Karthik.
30 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2017
The biggest impact this book had on me was in changing the mindset of showing the data to actually telling a story with the data. The focus of the book is to make clear data visualizations that makes the audience see the results you want them to see. The author urges the reader to go beyond the default settings in your tool and guides the reader on choosing the right type of visualization, removing clutter and design tips. I think the design tips are especially helpful since most non-designers do not spend time thinking about the use of colors, white space, alignment, etc. Many of the concepts in the book are transferable to presentations too. Would highly recommend the book to anyone who has to present results using data!
Profile Image for Skyler.
311 reviews13 followers
January 28, 2018
Great resource for data biz basics ... explains the psychology and reasoning behind all of the best practices using the standard arsenal: gestalt principles and preattentive attributes. Would recommend to anybody who wants to spruce up their charts or data-based presentations.
Profile Image for Marju.
4 reviews
January 3, 2020
Good reminder how to make data vizuals better, what works and what does not.
Comparable graphs in the book make visual understanding easy.
Profile Image for Paul Dembina.
411 reviews84 followers
May 9, 2022
I don't normally bother to log books related to work, but this one was at least peripherally related to story telling and it was a nice and easy read. As you'd expect from someone teaching aspects of how to clearly present data
Profile Image for Hang.
16 reviews10 followers
November 14, 2021
Simple but powerful tactics for anyone who wants to explore the beauty of data and storytelling.
Profile Image for Veronica.
105 reviews37 followers
November 26, 2020
There is always a story to tell. If it’s worth communicating, it’s worth spending the time necessary to frame your data in a story.

An amazing and very-on-point book with a lot of useful tips and examples to help understanding how to build better visualisations and why you should do it. Highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Komeil Mazraee.
112 reviews7 followers
June 7, 2021
حقیقتا باید به این کتاب ده ستاره داد! در لینک زیر در سایت‌م در مورد کتاب و چند لینک خوب نوشته‌ام.
Profile Image for Chinh Nguyen.
39 reviews52 followers
March 22, 2020
Rất hay và thiết thực. Mình cần những quyển sách như thế này hơn là self-help. Cá nhân mình là người thích thẩm mỹ theo phong cách tối giản nên gặp quyển này như cá gặp nước :))

Mình nghĩ ai đi làm văn phòng cũng từng gặp tình huống thấy người ta trình bày slide đẹp quá nhưng không biết làm như thế nào, bắt đầu từ đâu. Xong mở Powerpoint lên, ngồi gặm móng chân một hồi rồi gõ gõ mấy dòng, bullet, cùng lắm chèn cái biểu đồ vô cho có vẻ “chuyên nghiệp”. Mèo lại hoàn mèo.

Quyển này giải quyết triệt để vấn đề trên bằng cách cung cấp kiến thức nền tảng trong việc trình bày dữ liệu:
1. Xác định mục tiêu trình bày. Cái này nghe đơn giản và có vẻ sáo rỗng nhưng thực sự thì mọi người rất hay mắc phải: chỉ show ra những gì mình có trong tay. Một fact/figure hay đến mấy thì cũng khiến khán giả “wow... interesting” chứ không có action. Action phải là mục tiêu cốt lõi, trừ khi mình định trình bày để mua vui.
2. Chọn hình thức trình bày dữ liệu: line graph vs. bar graph, chiều dọc hay chiều ngang, tại sao không nên sử dụng pie chart và 3D v.v..
3. Tinh giản. Đa số đều có tâm lý sợ slide của mình “trống trống” nên sẽ thêm thông tin vô. Khán giả thì ngược lại. Tưởng tượng ta có một tờ giấy trắng: mỗi một nét bút ta đặt lên đều khiến người đọc phải xử lý. Do đó, chỉ giữ lại những gì không thể bỏ.
“You know you’ve achieved perfection, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing to take away”.
4. Làm nổi bật dữ liệu quan trọng: bằng màu sắc, kích thước, thứ tự v.v.. Thường mọi người hay bỏ qua bước này, chỉ show lên những gì mình có một cách đẹp mắt và để người đọc tự rút ra kết luận. Sự thực là, vừa nghe vừa xem một thông tin mới người ta không đủ thời gian để rút ra thông tin quan trọng.
5. Kể một câu chuyện dẫn dắt. Human love story.

Một tips quan trọng: bắt đầu bằng giấy bút phác thảo Ý TƯỞNG, chứ không phải mở slide lên. Câu này làm mình nhớ hồi trước có một anh từng nói tương tự khi lập trình: phác thảo giải pháp xong rồi mới gõ code. Công cụ chỉ để hiện thực ý tưởng.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stormy.
423 reviews25 followers
April 2, 2022
I have a difficult time with translating data to something visual and vice versa, I hoped this class/book was going to help, but no such luck. I still see graphics representing data and think - what the HECK does THAT mean?
Profile Image for Ragnar.
107 reviews6 followers
March 17, 2019
Quite decent entry level guide on how to visualise data that supports the message that you are trying to get across and how to create the narrative that is supported by data, in that sense all the basics are covered here. For me it was bit too basic, but I found main value in examples I can learn from and there's a lot.

Few takeaways:

- live presentation - not too information dense graphs, all data does not have to be in one slide, because when you start to explain it, you will loose the audience as they start to explore the viz, you might be talking about one part of the data while they are focusing somewhere else entirely. So the slides should be very simple with similar template and in sequence that helps to story to build and you can explain your point.

- presentation deck for reading - there should be only one possibility of interpretation of the graphs with the point you are trying to make, it should be emphasized through colour, thickness, size, of a font or graph. It helps if text is added to the graphs as narrative.

- think of the colourblind (~8% of men) - https://colororacle.org/
Profile Image for Annie.
830 reviews835 followers
September 12, 2017
Flipping through the book, you can see the layout, text, and images are pleasing to the eyes. Obviously, the author applied her own principles. The content is clear and concise in providing a primer on data visualization. There are "before" and "after" images to reinforce the principles. The stumbling block that most people face is figuring out what point they are trying to make. Most times, they're not even making a point. They present data and expect the audience to just look at it (like a line chart showing sales each month for the last two years). The presenter needs to know the data and investigate (is there a pattern, is the trend up or down, and what will the business look like next year). That is the story that needs to be told. After having the story, remove the clutter... focus on the main points (the information, not the data).
Profile Image for Fatemeh.
136 reviews23 followers
January 8, 2021
This book was recommended by a friend many years ago and I am so happy that finally I've got the opportunity to read that. The text was very fluent and I think all we need in the process of storytelling with data was covered. I already feel some changes in my presentations. I think they are more mature now!
Here are main lessons of "Storytelling with data":
-Understand the context
- Choose an appropriate visual display
- Eliminate clutter
- Focus attention where you want it.
- Think like a designer.
- Tell a story.

To me it's just : Know what you want to talk about. Present that and watch any unnecessarily cognitive load!

Profile Image for Farhad Azadjoo.
60 reviews8 followers
May 19, 2018
این کتاب به صورت فوق العاده عالی به تفسیر نمایش داده ها به کمک نمودارها و قوانین و روشهای جذاب سازی و افزایش تاثیرپذیری نمودارها میپردازد. این کتاب شامل 10 فصل هست که در 7 فصل به هفت قانون برای استاندارد و جذاب سازی و افزایش تاثیرپذیری نمایش داده ها با نمودارها میپردازد. در 2 فصل تعدادی مثال کاربردی مورد بررسی قرار میگیرد و قوانین یاد گرفته شده در این نمونه مثال ها پیاده سازی و مورد بحث قرار می گیرد.
Profile Image for Amanda Bento.
Author 3 books15 followers
July 2, 2021
Excelente pra quem precisa fazer apresentações e criar dashboards pra qualquer nível na empresa. A autora dá dicas não só estéticas, mas também estratégicas de como conduzir reports de qualidade. Um livro que vai permanecer na minha mesa de trabalho e servirá como guia ainda pra muitas apresentações.
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