Monday, April 7, 2014

a storytelling with data ad

One of my favorite indulgences on a weekend morning is to sit in the sun on our terrace and read the latest copy of Dwell magazine. A number of things in the universe have to align to make this possible: namely, the sun must be shining and the child must be sleeping. The universe aligned in just this way this past Saturday (bliss!).

I find that the design of products and the design of spaces can sometimes influence my thinking, spark an idea, or act as inspiration when it comes to the visual design work on which I focus much of my attention. On this particular read through Dwell, it was the following advertisement that caught my eye:

This ad caused me pause for a few reasons:
  1. The leading stat - 1 in 5 children go to school hungry - is powerful. When it comes to communicating a number or two, tables and graphs don't usually have a place, as the numbers themselves carry a lot more attention-grabbing power.
  2. The use of preattentive attributes to make certain elements of the visual distinct: the numbers at the top are in bold, all caps and underlining draw attention to the second line, and the sort of sea-green in the logo and text at the bottom emphasize the un and is (when it comes to this last point, I might have chosen different portions of text to draw attention to, but I think that's one of those things that can be up for debate and probably there was a good reason the designer chose these particular pieces - perhaps the dichotomy between un and is?).
  3. The story. It's short and sweet, but still a robust example of storytelling with data, which, with the personal anecdote and picture are made to be much more human than a simple stat on its own would be.
  4. The picture. Speaking of pictures, one frequent question in my workshops is about the use of pictures when it comes to visual communication. I don't use pictures a lot personally, but as mentioned above, I do definitely think there are ways to use pictures that appeal on a different level than numbers do. Here, I think the pairing of the two is effective.
What do you think of this ad as an example of storytelling with data? Is it effective? Why or why not? Leave a comment with your thoughts!


  1. Can anyone think of a good reason that they highlighted the letters un? I think i am missing something.

    1. I puzzled over this, too. In the end, maybe they were trying to evoke un-American/undermines and the general theme that such a high level of childhood hunger is an embarrassment in a rich, well-developed country and it undermines future workforce and capacity. But that is a wild guess.

    2. Sounds like you aren't the only one confused by this, Tony! I don't know for sure, but would guess that it's some play on "un"-doing hunger.

      This does bring up an interesting question about whether intent in highlighting something in this way needs to be clarified - I would have previously argued yes, that you should make it clear, however in this case the lack of clarity has sparked a bit of a conversation (and even inspired people to check out the website). Perhaps this was by design? Or if not, at least an interesting byproduct/outcome.

  2. I was curious about the same thing Tony V

  3. curious enough to go to the website and see this is a partnership with safeway and another organization but could not figure out the UN part not matter where I looked.

  4. Even more striking that the type for me is the image. It has been shot straight on and all yes are looking down the barrel of the camera, very attention grabbing it's like THEY are saying the text. All the eyes have had a ton of photoshop but that's OK