#IdeaNotebook: Hans Rosling

When discussing great data presentation, Edward Tufte is often cited, with good reason. Good data presentation has always been important. It is especially necessary to achieve the potential with Big Data, uniting Information Management and Experience Design. I’m indebted to Perficient colleague Brian Dudley for introducing me to Hans Rosling and his inspiring way of presenting data.

Rosling presents data in a way that not only tells a powerful story, but is truly delightful. What is particularly wonderful in his presentations is the positive and encouraging story Rosling tells with data. His field of interest is in public health. The way such data is presented too often suggest only grim and daunting pictures for certain areas of the world. That’s certainly one way to encourage urgency, but such a message doesn’t necessarily point to definite solutions. Rosling’s presentations (watch, for example, The good news of the decade?), in contrast, show that, while there is still a lot of room for progress in public health throughout the world, we have made progress everywhere. He correlates factors such as education for women and availability of family planning services to where progress has been pronounced. He then builds the case that those same factors can help with remaining efforts to reduce poverty, end child morality, and achieve other goals to improve life for everyone. The data points to what is working as much as to what still needs to be done. That’s a powerful message and a lesson for presenting data in any field.

I also recommend gapminder.org, which Rosling founded with the mission of “Fighting devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview everyone understands.” If you have to present data and want to tell an amazing and beautiful story, Gapminder desktop is a must-have tool.

As we explore all that is possible with the emerging Big Data effort, Rosling is an inspiration to avoid “boring tables” that fail to really engage our readers. I hope you find his work as inspirational and a useful resource to add to your Idea Notebook.

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