Wow v ah-ha

This title captures so perfectly a current theme in the ever more data driven infographic-land that I haven’t changed it. It’s lifted from a recent blog post from Juice Analytics that caught my eye a couple of weeks back.

Whether a data graphic is more ‘wow’ or more ‘ah-ha’ all depends on your audience and your aim. Like most things it’s a spectrum, and probably worth being honest whereabouts on it you’re aiming for when you set out creating any graphic.

In an editorial world more often than not it’s about achieving an ‘ah-ha’. And this is neatly illustrated by all the different ways I’ve heard this same thing expressed recently. I’ve pulled them together here.

‘What do you want to find out from the data?’ not ‘what can you do with the data?’
Simon Rogers, Guardian Datablog (related post)

Less noise, more story
My observation
from this year’s Malofiej infograpic conference

Not ‘what does the data show’ but ‘how did the data get that way’
Joe Ward, sports graphics editor, New York Times (interview)

Start with a concept to pilot you through the data
David McCandless

And since it’s always good to have an example, here’s an interactive graphic from the OECD that conveniently illustrates both concepts. Click on the image to go and explore it.

Designed and created by Moritz Stefaner, Jonas Leist, Timm Kekeritz (for Raureif design consultancy)

Being both ‘wow’ and ‘ah-ha’ clearly isn’t something every graphic needs to do but happens to be something this one manages to do well. Which is impressive given it’s a fine line to tread stylistically too, with ‘wow’ being easier to make engaging and playful and ‘ah-ha’ which can err on the side of dry.