Design Literacy is a Must

Data literacy is not enough alone.

Last Friday, I attended ‘The Storytelling with Data Forum’ organised by Analytics Quotient in Bangalore. I enjoyed listening to all the four panelist that shared their insights in the forum, but I found Michael Dillon from Coca Cola very compelling. Not only was he the one who (directly) addressed the storytelling aspect, but also his plea for developing data-stories, visualising it and then democratising it by allowing the audience to engage with it had strong resonance. It is the right lens and mindset that all businesses need to adopt. ‘Making the audience the hero of your story’ is the best way to engage them and make change happen.

There was some discussion in the Q&A on how to build this capability, at least at an analyst level. One way was AQ’s approach of on-boarding a set of ‘right-brained’ people (their words) in to a company and then forming cells of designer and data analysts to execute the work. Another was Ajay’s approach of getting data analyst (with MBA or engineering background) to learn about the visualisation and storytelling aspect.

I think businesses already have multiple challenges in working across current functional silos e.g. marketing, IT, finance etc. Creating another distinction between designer and developer or designer and analyst (which would need to be later broken down) is not helpful. I am more inclined towards the second approach of enhancing design literacy, not only at the analyst level but also across all levels of the company. We need to focus as much on enhancing these visual and story skills as we would on data analysis.

Why should we do that? I talk a little about this in my other essay - Bring the Right Brain @ Work. Anyway, for all those who did not attend, my real-time sketchnote for the session is below.

17 September 2013