How to be trendy with data visualisation

By Franco Havenga

Different new trends of data visualisation were explored in a workshop at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC) in Johannesburg on Friday afternoon.

Leading the workshop was Jane Pong, a specialist in data-related information graphics at the Financial Times in Hong Kong. She said creating your own unique data sets can allow journalists to do amazing data visualisations.

Lena Groeger, an investigative journalist and developer for ProPublica in San Francisco said that one needs to pick what is unique about your data, “when you are determining how to visualise it.”

Pong and Groeger showed about 30 journalists in attendance from all other the world how new trends in data visualisations could be used to create new ways of presenting data.

“With You Draw It one can present data in a visual way, but then give the user some input to change the outcome of the visualisation,” said Groeger. The New York Times used this method in their article “You Draw it: How Family Income Predicts Children’s College Chances”.

Emotive storytelling is a big trend in data visualisation to get people to see past the numbers and engage even more with data,” said Pong. The Washington Post used a calendar to examine the wage gap between men and women in their article “Can we talk about the gender pay gap?

“Another trend is to simplify graphics back to basics,” said Groeger. This is better for sharing the graphics online and are mobile-friendly. A story by The New York Times on mass shootings in America also used the idea of a calendar to emphasize their message.

“Small multiples is the format of repeating the same image, or a slightly different image over and over again,” said Groeger. The New York Times used this technique in a story about the examination of a neurologist on 110 N.F.L. Brains.

“With GIFs you can repeat a series of images over and over again to explain different concepts,” said Groeger. The magazine Science used GIFs to enhance certain elements in their story “Cracking the mystery of egg shape”.

Siyabonga Africa, program officer at South African Media Innovation Program said, “I love data and experimenting with data visualisations, so it’s always interesting to see other approaches to it.”

Martha Evans, a journalism lecturer at the University of Cape Town: “It’s good to be a student for a change and learn new ways of data visualisation.”

“What helps is to decide on the visualisation that you want to make, and then look for the tool that can help you do it,” said Pong.

In an era where data sets are available online, Pong urged the journalists to create data visualisations that are based on unique data sets. “Sometimes you will have to collect and curate the data sets yourselves.”

Other sites to use to create data visualisations:




The Data Visualisation Catalogue