I’m going to be honest with you wonderful readers and admit something cheesy – I’ve got a huge crush on Mona Chalabi. I first caught her on ‘Frankie Boyle’s New World Order’ where she was referred to as a data journalist. I’d never heard of this field of journalism, but she made data interesting. Not just because she’s so intelligent and breath taking, but because the data she presented was equally insightful and looked just as beautiful.

Chalabi hand draws her data visualisations, displaying the facts and figures in a way that provides excellent context and is visually engaging. If my maths teacher looked and taught like her, the film A Beautiful Mind would have been about me.

Most of us – particularly word-nerds and creatives – look at numbers like a foreign language. We understand it holds the key to many of life’s great mysteries, but we cannot decipher the vocabulary or syntax. When you aren’t fluent in a language, you have to rely on icons and images that transcend language. That’s why data visualisation helps – it transforms long and confusing ‘prose’ into a ‘picture book for children’.

Data Visualisation of NWA’s warning

A picture paints a thousand words, and in this instance, an image speaks louder and more clearly than numbers. While we often tend to place more credence in statistics than statements, we still don’t always grasp the weight of those figures.

For example, data obtained by the ABC noted that 11,533 searches were conducted in 2018-19 financial year due to detection by sniffer dogs, yet only 59 of those led to drug prosecutions – 0.5%, which is the lowest prosecution rate in seven years.

According to data from Redfern Legal Centre, NSW police conducted a total of 277 strip searches from Nov 2005 to Nov 2006. However, from Jun 2017 to Jun 2018, they conducted 5,483 strip searches. 1,387 of these searches were conducted on women, 402 were conducted on people 18 years or younger, and 3,435 of the total searches found nothing.

What we see is a massive overreach of police power, a major abuse of trust, an Orwellian nightmare realised. When you’re implementing invasive initiatives that are so ineffectual, why persist? But all that data can be difficult to comprehend, so let’s visualise it a little better to provide context. Also, be forewarned, I’m a writer – not a designer (but PowerPoint made things much easier).

data, Data Visualisation: Statistics Dolled Up

See? Don’t the icons give you a little more context and help you truly grasp just how ineffective NSW policing tactics can be? Although, using cute imagery to convey such horrible information does seem contradictory – much like public servants abusing those they’re sworn to protect.

The point is, you can offer a whole bunch of statistics within your next presentation, but if you want to ensure your audience understands them clearly, use some data visualisation and create an infographic.

PowerPoint doesn’t just make data visualisation easy to do (even for non-designers) – it’s also a powerful resource for training and education. Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to PowerPoint as an Academic Resource, which highlights 36 research papers from around the globe that demonstrate PowerPoint’s value in memory retention and audience engagement.

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