Hans Rosling illustrates how to tell compelling stories with data

Hans Rosling is a doctor and researcher that noticed that the statistics people at the World Health Organization had compiled a rich database of information regarding the health and well-being of people in different countries over long periods of time. But, he also noticed that they were wasting this data by producing boring charts and graphs.  He worked with his son to develop some great “Trendalyzer” software tools to show time series data as an animation — a powerful graphical design technique that he combines with his engaging presentation style to tell truly compelling stories with data.

This video is of Dr. Rosling presenting to the Technology Entertainment and Design (“TED”) meeting in 2006.  I have used this video to train and inspire epidemiologists, statisticians and other analysts about telling stories with data and encouraging them to explore new tools and to recognize the difference between graphical design and graphical decoration. It has always been very well received.

Rosling has done additional talks at subsequent TED conferences (see list here), which are also worth watching — but somewhat redundant for the limited purpose of teaching design and storytelling approaches. I encourage you to explore other TED talks, available for free at TED.com. They are very inspirational.

A couple of years ago, Rosling’s software tools were purchased by Google, who has adapted the data analysis / animation tools and incorporated them as “motion charts” into Goggle’s web-based spreadsheet application, part of Google Docs, and also available as an open component through an API, as documented here. They are available for free, and are fun to use.

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