Skip to content

Four Tips for Building Compelling Visual Stories with Data

Share article

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But what happens if the picture is sending the wrong message, or the intended message is being missed? Storytelling with data should be a strategic objective for all school administrators because as the pace of information gathering and sharing increases, it is even more important to be data-savvy and understand how to communicate your position to stakeholders.

When developing your storyboard, make sure your story includes these six “must-haves”:

  • Story includes a beginning, middle, and end. Focus on a 360⁰ view of content.
  • Lead Character. What is the backstory, decision making process and actions?
  • Purpose. Understanding the goals and reasoning for the initiative.
  • Conflict. Remind your audience of the status quo and introduce your solution path.
  • Results. What is the outcome? This can be supported with visual analytics.
  • Make people care. Understand your audience and add emotional elements to create streamlined relatability.

Once you have finalized your storyboard to include all six “must-haves”, you can begin creating your visual analytics. Administrators are leveraging Frontline Analytics to access pre-built Q&A visuals for simple and guided storytelling.

Here are four tips to follow when developing your supporting visuals:

Visual Attributes

Ask yourself what the focus is of the visual you are trying to create. Consider which format is best suited to generate the intended insights. Data attributes may include: length, width, orientation, size, shape, curvature, spatial grouping and color. For instance, leverage a bar graph to display ranges of data.


The use of color allows for greater understanding and digestion of the information being presented. Incorporate a maximum of 8 colors in your visual to enhance comprehension. Remember to only use colors that are significant to the data points being used.

Types of Data

The data points you are working with can be classified as qualitative, quantitative, or ordinal. Qualitative may include your Free and Reduced Low Income data. Quantitative may include your FTE totals, expenses, or passing percentages. Ordinal may include increasing, decreasing, or flat data trends or analyzing items that are below, on, or over budget.

Data Dashboard

When you are putting your visuals together or developing your transparency dashboard, remember to follow these best practices:

  • The most important visual should be displayed on the top or top-left of the page
  • Legends should be positioned near the visual views
  • Avoid using multiple color schemes on a single dashboard
  • Use six or less views in a dashboard
  • If possible, provide interactivity

As you prepare for upcoming committee meetings, board presentations, or long-term planning discussions, apply these tips to ensure your message is being conveyed effectively and efficiently.