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Episode 14: Market Research & Data Visualization

Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast is back again with a brand-new episode for a brand-new year.

In Episode 14 of the Insightrix Podcast series, we’re talking about market research and data visualization.

Data visualization and data representation are an important part of market research reporting because they make data sets that might be difficult to grasp at first glance more understandable and relatable. They merge esthetics with hard data to communicate research stories in ways that words just can’t match.

For the episode, we’re joined by Insightrix Creative Lead, Sharday Torgerson. The mastermind behind many of our data representations, Sharday shares her experience in what data visualizations and data representations are and how they differ, how both are used, best practices on their design, the tools she uses and even some ideas about how one can advocate for more graphic-based design in your own organization.

If you would like to see a great example of some of the innovative work Insightrix has done to create graphical reporting that can both communicate data effectively AND engage broad audiences with appealing design, check out Insightrix Holiday Spending 2019. Insightrix Holiday Spending 2019 is a web report we prepared to highlight the Christmas retail shopping experience in Saskatchewan that you can download and share.

You can also access many Insightrix data visualizations and representations based on our own public work on social media.

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Episode Transcript

[INTRODUCTION]

DUNCAN: For the uninitiated, (and for the initiative sometimes for that matter), understanding complex data sets can be a tricky proposition. Sure, there are some of us lucky and awesome folks who can look at a spreadsheet and get to the data story underneath at a glance, but let’s be honest, those are indeed special folks.

For many of us, to really dig into a data set and find the narrative that data presents, some level of visualization is going be pretty, darn handy.

Data visualizations and data representations present data in ways that are understandable, that are relatable and shareable, and that engage their audience on an aesthetic level as well as an intellectual one.

Hello, my name is Duncan McGregor, the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Insightrix Research in Saskatoon, Canada – and your podcast host.

In this fourteenth episode of our podcast series, we’re talking about data visualizations and data representations and market research – what they are, how they’re used, how they are different from each other, their value in market research reporting and more.

We’re joined for the episode by Insightrix Creative Lead, Sharday Torgerson, who shares her experience and knowledge of making sense of complex data sets through data representation and visualization. She shares some of the tricks and tips she’s learned, tools she uses, how the practice has changed over the years and even some advice on how to get C-Suite buy-in on adopting more graphic-based reports in your organization.

Resource design, our old pal the bar chart and video game start menus – all that and more in this episode of Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast.

[OPENING THEME MUSIC]

[INTERVIEW SEGMENT]

DUNCAN: We’re here with Creative Lead at Insightrix Research, Sharday Torgerson. How’s it going today, Sharday?

SHARDAY: It’s going really well. Thanks for asking.

DUNCAN: Thanks for coming back on the podcast.

SHARDAY: Yeah, for sure.

DUNCAN: This is like episode number three at this point, hey?

SHARDAY: Oh yeah, maybe.

DUNCAN: It’s great having you on.

SHARDAY: Thanks.

DUNCAN: Today, we’re talking about data visualization and data representation in market research, and I’m super glad to have you on to talk about it because your background is super informative to this discussion.

SHARDAY: Yeah, thanks for having me.

DUNCAN: Jumping right in, first of all, could you tell us about data visualization? If I were someone who had no idea about it, was is it that you’re saying we’re talking about?

SHARDAY: Sure. Well, I think, from a – just from an overarching perspective, so a 101, data visualization is exactly what it is. It’s conveying information, using data visualization.

DUNCAN: Visualizing data.

SHARDAY: Yeah, visualizing data. But the whole idea around data visualization is actually to tell the story.
DUNCAN: Oh, OK.

SHARDAY: And in order tell the story, you have to kind of be able to recognize your audience, as well, right? So, visual representation – data visualization and data representation can be in the form of many, I guess, can be done in many ways, I should say. So, everything from charts to infographics to even Google Maps itself is a form of data visualization, right?

DUNCAN: Cool.

SHARDAY: But the whole idea, I think, is to allow the audience to gain an understanding of the data that’s being visualized. So, if I were to give you the overarching definition, it’s just being able to take a nice, a large data set and be able to convey it in a way people understand.

DUNCAN: Well, that’s awesome. That’s pretty succinct. So, when you’re doing data visualizations, data visualizations in general, how do they assist market researchers?

SHARDAY: Yeah, I think data visualization itself is traditionally something that we’ve always engaged in in market research so… I mean, again, just mentioning the idea of charts and graphing. We’re all familiar with what a pie chart is, our bar graphs, etc.

DUNCAN: The old favourites…

SHARDAY: The old favourites could be definitely considered data visualization. But, I think in how it helps market researchers, again, it’s just going back to that idea that we’re trying to convey a data story through visual representation. And data visualization itself is one of those things that I think a lot of people tend to assume everything is data visualization. But in all retrospect, for market researchers, it has a lot to do with quantifying and crunching the numbers at the end of the day. So I think how it helps market researchers, again, is just really driving home the idea that you want to tell a really great story by using the data.

DUNCAN: So, it makes maybe complex data easier to understand?

SHARDAY: I think that’s probably the best way to put it.

DUNCAN: Yeah, we all learn in different ways too, right?

SHARDAY: Absolutely.

DUNCAN: So, those that are mathematically inclined might be able to just look at a spreadsheet and go, “Wow, I understand that right away.” But some of us, like myself – a copywriter and communications person – I might need a pie chart and maybe a little legend to help me out, right?

SHARDAY: And I think that goes back to the whole idea about knowing your audience, right? So, if a client on the other end is a marketing and communications professional, it may be then recognizing: how well do they know the data? Who are they in terms of – how do they understand it? Is it technical? Is it jargony? You have to kind of really drill right down to the point where – that you really, truly know your audience. And that’s maybe sometimes the best initial approach to data visualization. Knowing your audience.

DUNCAN: So, it’s just like – my background is in communications, copywriting, that kind of stuff. And when you’re writing, you’re writing to specific audiences, especially – well, in marketing and communications, if you’re not targeting your marketing in 2019… or 2020. Caught me there. But if you’re not targeting your marketing in 2020, well you’re really not marketing well. I guess it’s the same thing with any kind of communication – if that’s data visualization, as well, right? You have to be speaking to the right people in the right way.

SHARDAY: Yeah, you want to make sure these things are easy to understand, and I think with data, we kind of live in a world now where we are accessing data sets in a lot of different ways. And even from a marketing perspective, Duncan, I think that’s another example of an industry that is constantly collecting data and trying to figure out ways to visualize it so that they may be able to take that to their marketing managers and be able to explain the bigger picture at the end of the day. So, I think data visualization is something that in many industries is starting to become prevalent as something that is being used as the tool to tell the story. And in the world of data, if you will, any tool that we can use will help.

DUNCAN: Well, do you think that has something to do with the fact that laymen are being asked to – like, laymen – just your average person on the street – are being asked to deal with more and more complicated information all the time?

SHARDAY: Absolutely.

DUNCAN: And that’s why data visualization is becoming more and more important.

SHARDAY: Yeah, I think, to your point, data representation is becoming more and more important.

DUNCAN: Yeah, well said.

SHARDAY: Yeah, I think with – data visualization is really what’s driving it. So, maybe for context, data visualization crunches numbers programmatically. So, I think visual representation, to your point, is something that we’re all using more and more today. And that is in effort to try to tell I think a story a little bit quicker or get people to digest this information at a faster pace. But maybe not necessarily a faster pace – it’s an effort to get a lot of information at once, I think that might be it.

DUNCAN: Sort of like internalizing it.

SHARDAY: Yeah. Yeah.

DUNCAN: So, there is a difference then between data visualization and data representation?

SHARDAY: Yeah, I would say so. Just back to that, maybe that last point where data visualization is what crunches numbers programmatically. So, if we’re talking about data representation, what we’re looking at is maybe things like infographics, where…

DUNCAN: Oh, I’ve got you.

SHARDAY: Yeah, where we’re looking at maybe the representation through graphic elements – more of a static tool. Whereas data visualization is often interactive.

DUNCAN: OK.

SHARDAY: It often uses larger data sets to tell the story. But most of the time, believe it or not, data visualization is actually done through algorithms or AI – programs that actually take big, quantifiable numbers, crunch them and create these data sets. So, again, a good example would be specific mapping tools where you might be crunching population numbers to some extent, or maybe it’s involving the health industry and they’re trying to find key indicators and stuff like that. The whole idea is looking at maybe a larger set of numbers and then being able to engage with that at once.

DUNCAN: So, it’s something you really couldn’t do unless you had some kind of computer to help you out or a program to work with it. Say, like you’re saying, some mapping tools and that kind of thing. You couldn’t just sit down with a data set and a really good ability in design and actually hope to walk people through that as a story. That’s correct?

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: You’re using stuff like, maybe even PowerPoint to make a pie chart out of data, or like you’re saying, mapping tools. Right?

SHARDAY: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think the tools are all-encompassing today.

DUNCAN: Fair enough.

SHARDAY: You could even use PowerPoint to make pretty decent data visualizations.

DUNCAN: Pretty good…

SHARDAY: I think it’s really – it hangs its hat on the idea that you are kind of exploring a large data set.

DUNCAN: I got you.

SHARDAY: So, you’re engaging with a large data set and it’s often interactive. So, the difference between, perhaps, doing a data visualization on PowerPoint versus a data representation on PowerPoint really is, I guess, it really is the editorial process, as well. It’s recognizing that infographics might be more static and there’s other levels of, I think, requirements that go into developing it. And often, people look at infographics and data visualizations as very, very separate tools, but the both kind of treat the data the same way. That’s to be able to tell a really great story by enabling the analysis through the data.

DUNCAN: Without having to engage directly with the numbers, right?

SHARDAY: Yeah, kind of.

DUNCAN: Yeah, I’ve got you. I’ve got you. Well, that’s really cool

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: So, we know what data visualization is now…

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: …and how it works. Can you tell me a little bit about the practice itself? Maybe best practices?

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: What are some of the things that you know that make a good data visualization versus a bad one?

SHARDAY: Yeah, I think good data visualization should be accessible at the end of the day. So, I think it’s one of those things that should be multi-platform, should be scalable – people should be able to use many tools in order to access it. So, often data visualization is ran through just basic website sometimes so that they then can access it, but it often is accessible. So, it shouldn’t be developed in a way where only a sub-select group can actually access it.

DUNCAN: Gotcha.

SHARDAY: It should be appealing – obviously. So, similar to an infographic, the appealing aspect of a visualization tends to allow the participant or the audience, if you will, to engage with it more. So, recognizing appropriate colours, palette, imagery – sometimes even formatting – goes a long way. Complex data, more than ever, we’ve been seeing lots of really unique data visualizations out there that take huge, huge data sets or historical data sets that can sometimes stem back to a hundred years and how they’re actually able to treat this data visualization is through making it really appealing and creating formatting that I’ve never even seen before, personally. It’s an industry that’s constantly evolving and I think it has a lot to do with big data driving that.

DUNCAN: Yeah, with those data sets, you’d need to visualize them, I think. Period. Period. Right?

SHARDAY: Yeah. I think it’s one of those things, Duncan, where, again, we have so much information – today more than ever. And I think, and this is in any industry but market research is another, I think, great example of an industry that’s looking at data visualization more and more to be able to drive their insights.

DUNCAN: OK.

SHARDAY: Because we recognize, too, that there are opportunities to be able to apply passive data, primary data – but a lot of the times, it’s very difficult to try to peel all of that information and be able to put it into one story. The best way to do it, and I think people are starting to recognize that, as well – is to be able to tell this information through data visualization. And, if anything, good data visualization should give information that is straightforward and doesn’t require crunching numbers by the audience – even though, on our end of things, we’re doing all the crunching, right?

DUNCAN: We’re doing it for them.

SHARDAY: Exactly. They shouldn’t have to think about the data. They should be able to look at your analysis and walk away with some good information that should, hopefully, help them support their decision-making. I mean, at the end of the day, especially in market research, folks are buying data visualization or other ways to represent their data because it tells a better story and because it’s easier to digest.

DUNCAN: So, have you ever seen a bad one? I know that sounds really weird, and we don’t want to through shade at anybody in particular, right? But, is there any one that you could think of off the top of your head that was like, “Wow, I can’t believe they did that”?

SHARDAY: Oh Duncan, all the time. No! Just kidding! I think it’s one of those things, again, that we all have come across, maybe a poorly conceived representation of data, right? Often, again, people assume that because they have the tools, they might have the ability to be able to tell this data set through visual representation. Often, though, these representations can be poorly conceived, and it has a lot to do with folks not understanding the data. A useless infographic is not a good infographic at the end of the day.

DUNCAN: Fair enough.

SHARDAY: So, I think – maybe not to give an exact example – I come across data sets in the form of visualization or representation all the time that if it stops me in my tracks and I have take the time to really get to know what it’s saying, then you’re probably not – you’re probably not telling the data story as well as you can. A lot of the times, too, people might not even know when a data visualization is required over a data representation. And then, there’s that whole understanding of not knowing how to use certain graphs or certain charts, and I think that plays a lot into bad practices for data visualization.

DUNCAN: That makes sense. So, trying to make something up out of nothing – in other words, you don’t have enough data, so why are you trying to feed it into a data visualization? Or maybe it’s just not the right kind of data.

SHARDAY: Absolutely.

DUNCAN: I think that’s probably the best way to look at it.

SHARDAY: I think so, yes. Data visualization – sorry, yeah – data visualization is very, or can be a great tool to tell the story of complex data sets. So, back to the whole idea of that being something that is often programmed. It’s often crunched – the numbers. Whereas, again, the data representation is something that’s a little bit more, maybe, flashy. There’s a little more of an editorial process within it. Where data visualization is less the flair, and more the exploring the data.

DUNCAN: So, it goes back to one, like you were talking about, knowing your audience, but also, doubly important, know your data…

SHARDAY: I think so…

DUNCAN: …and how you can use that data.

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: That’s killer. OK, awesome. So, one of the ways you were talking about data representation being useful is like sometimes, data doesn’t speak to a visualization because it’s not complex enough or it isn’t the right kind of data or the right kind of story that you want to be telling, right? Infographics are probably one of the better data representations that we get into at Insightrix.

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: We really like them and we find that they are very useful when telling really complex stories out of data when the data is right for those infographics, right?

SHARDAY: Yeah, I think that’s the best way to put it, yup.

DUNCAN: So, do you have any tips and tricks for folks who are looking to design infographics or even improve the ones they’re already developing?

SHARDAY: Yeah, you nailed it on the head there Duncan. Infographics are something that we like to tell good data stories at Insightrix. Infographics can be everything from a really good PowerPoint that tells a data story to a stand-alone infographic to social media posts that have data representation – but the whole idea about them is to be able to make this data clear and coherent, and it’s understanding that when you’re on the other end as a market researcher kind of coming up with these infographics or these data representations, it’s recognizing that you’re using a level – I guess, you’re styling them at the same time that you’re telling a story.

DUNCAN: OK.

SHARDAY: So, infographics tend to be more – flashy, I guess might be the best…

DUNCAN: So, some design elements involved. Yeah, OK.

SHARDAY: Yeah, I think there some editorial processes that come into play, whereas, again, data visualization is really about exploring the data. Good visual representation lets you think about the data, not about the methodology. So, some of the best practices, I think, for building infographics are understanding that they are static, and that you should probably have a majority of the data ready before you even jump in. So, something that I often do, especially when I’m working with market researchers to be able to tell a better data story for their clients, is we’ll actually sit down and storyboard this information together.

DUNCAN: Cool, like a movie.

SHARDAY: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s how it really plays out. Where the market researcher is developing a script, if you will, through their reporting and then, between the two of us, me being the creative lead and them being the subject-matter expert, we can come up with a really good storyboard that lays out the data in a way that should inform the client rather than tell them. And I think a good infographic allows people to walk away being able to make a better decision rather than trying to constantly figure out what the data says. I think another great practice to keep in mind with infographics is knowing that they show, and should show rather, multiple levels of information. So, what I mean by that is, I think, a good infographic helps you drill down the data so that the audience can bring in the big picture, as well as answer deeper questions about the results. So hypothetically, if we’re talking about, say, camping: say camping’s a really big interest for one of your clients and you’re doing an infographic around their interests for what they do while they’re camping. Well, you can have this data set that explains to folks what, individually, these folks may like, but a good infographic will actually show on multiple levels what that may be. So, we might drill it down demographically. You might drill it down by population. You may find other nuances in the data that could help tell that story as to why the camper really likes that spot or that park. What makes a really good infographic is going back to the data and finding ways that really find multiple levels in the story. I think if you’re ever looking to try to tell a better story in you reporting and really want to drill down to some of those deeper answers, showing it visually is often a great way to do that.

DUNCAN: What I’m hearing is that, to do an infographic or a lot of data representation, it differs a lot from data visualization in that you have to know the story of the data before you start.

SHARDAY: It helps, yeah.

DUNCAN: You have to be able to understand the different – because data, in and of itself, is sort of just sitting there, right? And it’s up to you to be able to find where that story is, what the important things are and what isn’t important, and that goes back to talking to your customer. What’s important to them? Right?

SHARDAY: Yeah, absolutely.

DUNCAN: Or, I should say, audience. So, when you’re doing a data visualization, you can rely on your program to do that for you. You just decide what you want to tell, you put the data into the thing and boom, you’ve got a nice graphic, or maybe a nice set of graphics to tell that complex data series.

SHARDAY: Absolutely.

DUNCAN: Whereas, for data representation, that’s up to you. You’re going to have to know it. You’re going to have to live that data and actually be able to let folks know what that is.

SHARDAY: I think that’s…

DUNCAN: That’s that editorial process you’re talking about.

SHARDAY: Absolutely. Yeah, you know, I’m a creative by trade, I have to admit. So, I love to do things creatively, so when I get to build infographics, it’s really great to be able to add my style in, as well. That’s also following brand practices, and ensuring that my client’s brand is being met, as well.

DUNCAN: Of course.

SHARDAY: Infographics are a really great way to be creative with report writing. I think, often in market research, we tend to assume that reports are dry and stuffy – they should be short because we don’t want any of the extra information.

DUNCAN: Blah. That’s the 80s, man. That’s gross.

SHARDAY: Yeah, but I think what we’re experiencing more than ever is that the more we can provide insights through clear visual representation, the more your client’s going to be engaged because at the end of the day, they’re not reading 40 slides of text. You’re really telling them a strong story where hopefully, at the end of the day, they’re coming out of it really appreciating the work that you did. And then, they’re going to take that information and, again, make that better decision, and hopefully, taking it to other folks, like their bosses and their stakeholders, and they’re being able to explain that data story even further. So, you’re indirectly equipping your clients with the ability for themselves, even, to tell a better data story.

DUNCAN: That’s really important to say, I think, because a lot of the times when we do market research for folks, there’s a lot of times when they’re using it to get stakeholder buy-in, or maybe inform the public about certain policy decisions they’re doing. Data visualization and data representation’s amazing for that because you don’t have to be a data scientist to understand these really complicated things. You can actually be just somebody off the street, be given an idea of what’s going on and have the ability to actually start making informed, conversational questions about these things.

SHARDAY: Absolutely, if you come up with a really great data representation, your audience should be well informed at the end of the day. But that’s not without making sure that the data that you’re representing is for that audience.

DUNCAN: That’s fair, yeah.

SHARDAY: I think it’s one of those things to keep in mind, especially in market research. We often with business executives who might not be super technical, so you may even have to create some of these visualizations or these representations in a manner where non-technical folk will have to understand.

DUNCAN: That’s a really good point because people who hire data specialists and research specialists may not be data or research specialists themselves, right?

SHARDAY: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, these are great, great middle pieces to be able, again, to provide your clients with the opportunity to make a better decision with their stakeholders. But, at the same time, they should be able to walk away from your insights and be able to actually push that forward somehow. Because the infographic, even though it’s very editorialized – it’s styled, it’s supposed to have a flair, I guess, an artistic flair. At the end of the day, it’s still supposed to inform the data. So, while there’s a lot of creativity that goes into it, if it’s not representing the data in the way that it needs to, if it’s not easy to understand, if it’s full of jargon – heck, if it’s got spelling mistakes or it’s just really bad legends, you might run into issues where people will not be able to perceive that data. And the infographic itself could be really creative and really beautiful, but at the end of the day, if someone’s not walking away with a clear and coherent understanding, then the infographic or your data visualization might have not worked.  

DUNCAN: And that just opened up a whole new can of worms in my head about a conversation between the difference between art and not art, but it sounds very much the same. If it’s not informing, at least to some degree, right? But that’s another conversation for another time. In the past, we’ve developed a gang of really good infographics. Are there any that you’re really proud of? And that you would point out to go see?

SHARDAY: You know, what I really like about some of the work that we do – OK, so again, we’re a market research firm and we often work with other businesses. But being that we are a market research firm with an online community, as well – So, we have a panel of 18,500 Saskatchewan residents and we often will go to our panel and we’ll ask them a series of questions, and then we’ll get them actually engaged in a way where we may create a really cool infographic and share that back with them. So, for example, Christmas is kind of a big deal around here, so we decided, hey, in an effort to keep our market research participants engaged, why not ask them a few questions about the holidays and then, therefore, create a really – a fun infographic. And it’s not something that has to, again, be very specific or straightforward. Sometimes, infographics can be entertaining. They can be, but they still have to represent the data properly. So, for example, with the holiday infographic, we were able to ask questions – everything from how much money people plan to spend to how people engage online versus how they shop in stores. But we’re also able to ask them qualitative questions that engage our participants in a different way. But what’s neat about the infographic is that I can take all of that information, apply kind of a holiday theme behind it and then I have a really strong representation of that data. And often, the editorial that goes into it is very much working with my team and us figuring out what would be something that’s engaging with our market research panel. And this isn’t necessarily a B2B infographic. It’s a B2C infographic, so other things may come into play when we develop those types of things. So, what I’ve really liked doing in the past is being able to provide infographics that both inform and entertain. I think, when I can do and hit both of those points home, I feel like I’ve created a really good infographic. So, that’s something that we tend to do in-house is recognize that infographics are a great tool to, again, entertain and inform. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be businesses. It can be your research panellists. It can be people within your office, as well. So, infographics can be used internally and externally, but for myself, some of the ones I’ve really enjoyed the most were working with our MROC and actually providing them with the questions that they answered. I was able to give them an engaging infographic of the results, and I think they really appreciate that, too.

DUNCAN: That’s really cool. We also do some data representation, sometimes, where we sort of merge reporting with infographics.

SHARDAY: Yeah. Yeah.

DUNCAN: You can see that in our Holiday Spending Report, right? Because that was sort of a mix between an infographic meets a report and, I think, it was very internalizable for a lot of folks, especially for – let’s face it, folks who may might just want to know what the spending patterns are in Saskatchewan, but also for folks who might have a background in retail, as well, who want to know what the retail space is looking like. If you want to check that out, go over to the Insightrix website. It’s on there and I think you’re really find it useful.

SHARDAY: Yeah, the Holiday Spending Report 2019 is a really great example of an interactive infographic that tells a really cool story with the data.

DUNCAN: Yeah.

SHARDAY: We tried to do something a little bit different this year by creating an infographic that is a web-based report. And through that web-based report, there’s a lot of really great information on, again, spending in Saskatchewan around the holidays. So, we recognize that there – there’s information that we can kind of create digestible reporting, but then also be able to share that with folks and not, every time, kind of wrap it into a syndicated research report and sell it. Sometimes, infographics, especially for marketing purposes, are a great way to inform the public, especially for market research where we can provide research and statistics and just quickly tell it in a succinct way.

DUNCAN: Now, you say often that things are changing a lot over time. Have you seen a lot of changes in the way infographics are being done over the last 10 years or so?

SHARDAY: I think so. My experience in the past 10 years for infographics have – actually have changed even in the past four years, I have to admit. The industry has evolved greatly; there’s a lot more need to be able to tell quick stories, but I think there’s even a larger need to be able to tell good insights. So, you know, a lot of us are quite busy, especially when we’re in work environments that are fast paced. An hour meeting versus a two-hour presentation, sometimes that infographic will be that thing that saves us that extra hour, right? Or that data representation that’s at the beginning of your report might save you 20-30 minutes during your pitch because you’re able to get a lot of information across that’s digestible. And then, further, you’re actually going to be able to get people to engage, as well, right? So, if you’re developing infographics or, again, data representation in your reporting, chances are you’re going to save a lot of face and you’re going to get a lot more engagement. How it’s continued to change, as well, is just back to that idea that we’re recognizing there’s more needs out there to be able to tell a really digestible story. Data is accessible today more than ever – I think, even in terms of personal data, we’re even exploring that to a greater extent. And then, we have applications that can manage this information, and then they get told and shown to us through data representation. So, I’m sure half of us listening have a Fitbit…

DUNCAN: Yeah.

SHARDAY: …and Fitbits are a really good example of us collecting personal data and then going back to a dashboard and looking at that data representation and then digesting the information to see what it says. So, I think, as a whole, we’re just accessing a lot more data sets than ever before and, therefore, data representation is just an example of really how we’re trying to tell that information quickly.

DUNCAN: It really is ubiquitous too, right?

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: It’s everywhere nowadays.

SHARDAY: It is.

DUNCAN: So, if you’re a market researcher…

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: … and you’re, maybe, mid-range in your organization, and you want to change the way you’re doing reports – you want to get these infographics into your reports – you want to make your visualizations and get them in there – is there any ways that you can think of, just off the top of your head, that you might be able to get buy-in from management and being able to get those? Or just, do you think that just explaining their value is where it’s at?

SHARDAY: Absolutely, I think that just past explaining their value, hopefully your stakeholders or your executives appreciate that data representation, or good data representation, will save and create a lot of efficiencies for the business. But I think with market researchers, especially those that are maybe looking to maybe include more representation of data in their reporting really have a lot of tools that are accessible more than ever – and free tools, for that matter, or subscription tools that they can use that provide folks with templates or icon libraries or charting, for that matter. You can actually go out there and purchase this – these tools or these subscriptions or these products and be able to use them as a bit of a templating system.

DUNCAN: Oh, that’s cool.

SHARDAY: So, for example, I can give a few off the top of my head that even I use, myself. I’m a creative who uses Adobe Creative Suite, but I am no – I am still someone who still uses tools, free tools, that help me be a little bit more efficient, as well. Because sometimes, even Adobe isn’t all the way the answer to everything, either. So, tools that are accessible, even to the general public or market researchers who are just getting maybe into some designing, are things like Piktochart. So, Piktochart is a free service online that you can subscribe to that is considered an intermediate graphing element tool where anyone who – I don’t even think it matters if you’re design-inclined or not. You can probably jump on Piktochart and create – again, as long as you really understand that data, you can create a really decent representation of that information without knowing or having too much of a design background. Again, it stems back down to those best practices. It’s really recognizing if it’s appealing, if you’re using the appropriate colours and the appropriate palette. Is your data straightforward? Are you steering away from jargon? Sizing theory, weighting theory goes into infographics and again…

DUNCAN: Order?

SHARDAY: … order. There’s pattern principles that we could dive into, as well, that really feed into…

DUNCAN: This could get really deep.

SHARDAY: Yeah, it could get really philosophical up in this one. But I think, again, it’s recognizing that we are humans who recognize patterns and infographics is but a way to tell that information. But again, the tools that you can use today, they’re so accessible. Piktochart’s one of them. A couple other ones – some of them that are a little bit more turnkey are helpful, as well.

DUNCAN: Oh cool…

SHARDAY: So, you have directories or – I guess, what would they be? – they would be asset directories where you can actually go and purchase Power Point templates that have thousands of graphics built into it. You can just take those graphic slides and put them into your reports. Change the data set and then completely benefit from these really great representations that you didn’t have any involvement on but know they’re going to impress your executive. You can find products like that on places like Envato Market. That’s one of the tools I use quite heavily myself, and it’s not because I may not be able to do something a certain way. It has to do with the fact that these tools are out there, and why not use them? So, you can go to these websites and download a PowerPoint template that has 1000 slides with ready-made visualizations that you can take and apply tomorrow.

DUNCAN: That’s awesome.

SHARDAY: So, resource designing, I think, is a big, big contribution to being able to tell a good data story when you might not necessarily be design-inclined. Go out there. Do some research; go onto Google and look for some of these products and I guarantee you’ll find something that is close to free, if not free, that you should be able to pick up and use tomorrow. And I guarantee, once you kind of start getting into the swing of things, infographic building, or data representation itself, gets much easier as you go. But you can find tools that are accessible to be able to do this, for sure.

DUNCAN: Cool…

SHARDAY: Yeah.

DUNCAN: …like you’re saying, practice makes perfect.

SHARDAY: I think so.

DUNCAN: Don’t stop on your first one. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Push on them and you’ll probably get pretty good at them.

SHARDAY: I think it’s like anything. It’s an art all on its own; the more you do it, the better you get at it, as well.

DUNCAN: Fair enough, right?

SHARDAY: And if you’re a market researcher that’s really specialized in something – so, you’re really into brand research or you’re kind of more in the customer experience world – I think there are ways that you can actually craft your data and look for templating or look for resources that are even around that. Muse is always great. You know, if you go and look for other ways that other people are doing…

DUNCAN: Oh yeah.

SHARDAY: … data visualization is one of those things where you’ll see something and it’ll spark so much creativity that you’ll want to do something similar. So, I’m also one of those people that will open up Google Images or go to Pinterest – I’ll type in a certain representation of data, and then I’ll look at how other people are doing it. And maybe there’s a way that I can apply my data set in a similar way. So, we’re not above how other people are doing things, as well, and we tend to look and engage with other data visualizations to see how they’re doing it and how should we be doing it. I think, market research, as an industry, is doing that more and more. It’s recognizing that there are industries out there that have been doing these data sets for years and have been doing a great job. For example, in my experience, the reason why I’ve grown to love data representation is because I’m actually an avid gamer.

DUNCAN: Oh, right on.

SHARDAY: So, I think, growing up, I’ve come to appreciate specific dashboards, or recognizing that video games were one of the best ways to tell large, complex data sets but feed us back to us gamers in a way that we can understand.

DUNCAN: Open up any RPG and press start – you know what those menus look like.

SHARDAY: Absolutely, yeah. So, I feel like it’s one of those things that really grew my love for appreciating how to tell a good data set. Video games were one of those things…

DUNCAN: That’s awesome.

SHARDAY: …yeah, that I felt was an early adopter of data visualization. And so… yeah, yeah.

DUNCAN: That’s awesome. Well, we’ve come a long way since the bar graph, man, and I want –

SHARDAY: That’s true.

DUNCAN: Well, thanks for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time and that you were willing to join the podcast again. It’s just amazing to have you on. Thanks so much.

SHARDAY:  Yeah, thanks for having a creative on. Any time where I can kind of talk about this stuff gets me really excited, so hoping to be on again.

DUNCAN: Yeah, me too. Alright. Thanks again.

SHARDAY: Right. Thanks.

[INTERSTITIAL MUSIC]

DUNCAN: And there you have it. We’d like to thank our very own Creative Lead, Sharday Torgerson, for coming back to guest on another episode of the Insightrix Podcast. It was really great to get her on for this episode to talk to her and share her experience and knowledge on what can be a tricky subject to explain.

If you would like to check out some of the reports, data representations or data visualizations discussed on this episode of Stories on Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast, the best place to start is on our website – www. Insightrix.com. You can also see some of our data representations, infographics and more on our social media channels – we’re @insightrix on Twitter and Facebook and @insightrix_research on Instagram. Head over and check us out, and follow us to get all of our great visualizations, representations, articles, podcast announcements and more.

And, as always, we’d like to thank our growing and loyal fanbase! You folks are awesome. If you have any questions about the podcast, have an episode idea or would like to see anyone in particular on Stories of Market Research, drop us a line and let us know at podcast@insightrix.com.

And if you haven’t heard already, Stories of Market Research is now available on Spotify. Just head over and search the name of the podcast to find us! You can also find us on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, YouTube and pretty much everywhere else you access your podcasts. If you’re there, why not take a moment and give us a review or rate the episode. It’ll help us get in front of more people like you – awesome people who have an interest in market research.

Thanks again everybody. We’ll be back again in a couple of weeks with another episode of Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast.

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