Since Alpha Grid’s inception in 2012 as a video production business, the content industry has developed at pace. The Financial Times was early to recognise the power and importance of audiovisual formats, demonstrated by its acquisition of the business in 2017.
Fast-forward to 2023, and content creation, distribution and engagement is a fully embedded technique in most strategic marketing plans.The potential downside of this enormous growth is that content can be viewed as being too prolific, at times unavoidable and, at worst, commoditised. Ill-thought-out plans, poorly crafted content and a haste to create too much risk undermining the very value the content is intended to create.
The way to use content to protect and grow a brand or organisation is ultimately dependent on the sophistication and mix of the approaches and formats deployed.
We believe that, in a world in which trust and legitimacy are fundamental to a brand’s authority, the content’s underlying data, and the emphasis and prioritisation of the facts that inform the story, are as important as the narrative that elevates it.
We’ve spent a lot of time over the past year thinking about how we unite those elements (identifying and crafting compelling stories, using data to underpin the message, and presenting that work in engaging and immersive formats), and that is why our work is no longer always video-driven. Story and audience first, format or formats second. Always.
Data visualisation, along with information design, has become a key tool in our content armoury. Just those words make it feel like a disparate capability, but successful data visualisation relies on the same foundational techniques that all good storytelling does.
Find the story, check the facts, make it relevant to the audience, narrate it in a way that provides intrigue and meaning – then elevate it through creative techniques.
Where data can feel overwhelming, through visualisation it adds interesting context, comparisons and drama. Information design enables simplicity and allows audiences to draw conclusions from a starting point of complexity or seemingly intractable density. As with any well-crafted story, the selection and emphasis of the source is key to the content’s success and performance.
Comparison is a hugely effective tool when you’re looking to give your information impact. For example, when you let people know that the world’s richest one per cent grabbed nearly two thirds of all new wealth – worth $42tn– created since 2020, that’s interesting. But add the fact that that’s almost twice as much as went to the bottom 99 percent of the world population*…
…and you have a story.
(*Oxfam, Jan 2023)
How you present your information could well depend on your platform. A large, complex data visualisation in a Sunday newspaper will be presented differently to a fleeting graphic that appears for just seven or eight seconds in an explainer animation, and yet each, in its own way, must be clear, informative and interesting.
Just as the great masters moved a viewer’s eye around their paintings using light, shade and perspective, good data visualisation will be laid out in a way that leads the viewer from one point to another in a logical way that makes sense, maximises impact and, above all…tells a story.
We build content for FT.com and for our clients’ own channels – which gives us freedom to explore options and valuable data to assess performance. While we can, and do, applaud data visualisation from our own group, the key to getting better is also about bringing the outside in–- so celebrating here some data visualisation magic from outside our own four walls.
Population Density in Europe – by Alistair Rae
This piece uses 3D mapping, a more experimental and aesthetic approach to data visualisation.
A variety of infographics demonstrating the history and evolution of pandemics.
An explanation behind the viral artwork that brought climate change to life.
Want to know how we apply our journalist rigour and expert craftsmanship to creating stories communicated through data visualisation?
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