Tools for Storytelling with Data

Tools for Telling Stories about your Research

Let's see how Luke Skywalker uses an existing mental model, a known metaphor, to understand how to tackle a completely new problem:

Metaphors are useful ways to communicate research to a diverse audience.

Jane Hirshfield describes the power of the metaphor:

Data visualisation is the art of storytelling with data. Pixar's Andrew Stanton shares what he knows about storytelling (it's a lot). Jump to 14:52 if you want to hear him talking about inspiring a sense of wonder with the stories we tell:

Adrian's beautiful project uses an interactive, immersive from of story:


If digital humanities demands we craft the short form of our research, then tapping into common metaphors and narrating a story about the process or the research data, can help pack-in a lot of information into a single image:

There are a wealth of tools available to visualise research. This workshop encourages you to use the tools you know to create an image to use for your social media launch, or as part of a pitch for a pursuit article.

Some examples of images created from common tools are:

Pen and paper: Edward Tufte in his book Visual Explanations shows us Steve Chapple and Reebee Garofalo's history of pop/rock music. This use of mulitple, parallel flows is a design technique that can help communicate research information.

Tableau: Robert Janezic has used Tableau to create a similar diagram of parallel flows showing music genre popularity over time.

Excel: Bronwyn's research project used excel to create a heatmap type of visualisation of complex analysis of ethnographic research data.

Powerpoint: Microsoft PowerPoint can create animated gifs, looping animations that can be lightweight visualisations that can be posted on giphy or embedded in social media posts. The icons can be useful alongside the AI driven design suggestions.

Powerpoint: Complex data visualisations can be manipulated in powerpoint to gradually build a story that culminates in the full visualisation.

Animal Crossing: For people familiar with, or obsessed by, Animal Crossing can create 360 videos of a spatial representation of information as you can see in this screenshot from Chloe's project.

Python: Python's ggplot is built on Hadley Wickham's graphical grammar to design useful visualisations although seaborn can be useful for greater control of formatting. Moviepy and matplotlib are useful for animated visualisations.

Voyant: Voyant is an online tool that quickly generates visualisations such as word clouds, and can even be screen-recorded with your narration to create a video that can be posted to social media or to a video hosting platform like youtube

QR Codes: A shortform visualisation can include a visual link to the longer form using a QR code generator.

Now that you're telling stories using the force of the metaphor, go ahead, ditch the complex tools, tell a good story and destroy the death star:

If you'd like to chat more about visualisation design and brainstorm how this could apply to your research project, please contact us at