Top 5 Examples of Storytelling with Graphs

As part of writing my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” I’ve studied 50 examples of graphs that tell stories. Some of them are publicly visible, such as TED talks, newspaper infographics and YouTube videos. Some are not, such as business reports and presentations that contain confidential information.

Below, I list the top 5 examples of storytelling with graphs and below it a full list of the examples that are publicly visible. Which ones would you add? Leave a comment in the comments section. If you want to be alerted when my book “Storytelling with Graphs” is published, subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group.


#1. Wealth Inequality in America
This video, showing how wealth distribution is even worse than people imagine, does a great job of capturing our attention and then using animation and suspense to reveal the truth.



#2. Barack Obama’s Recovery Act
This has a simple and clear story structure: conflict, character, resolution.



#3. The National Debt Road Trip
Great use of metaphor to turn an abstract idea into something easier to imagine, and so talk about.



#4. What are the Wall Street Protestors Angry About?
Henry Blodget does a great job of bringing four characters to life: corporate owners, the top 1%, bankers and laborers and shows how corporate profits are sucking the life out of America. See the slide show on


#5. Hans Rosling Ikea Boxes
Rosling is most famous for his animated bubble charts. But the Ikea boxes work even better at introducing us to the world’s inhabitants and showing how the world is changing, and will change in the future.


 The Full List
And here’s the full list of publicly-available examples of storytelling with graphs I reviewed for my new book, which should be available in October 2013. Enjoy!


Live/Animated Presentation
A Song of Our Warming Planet >>
An Inconvenient Truth  Video >>  | Transcript >>  | TED talk >>
Are The Poor Getting Poorer?  >>
Barack Obama’s Recovery Act >>
Do Women Earn Less than Men? >>
Economist (many videos to choose from) >>
Fiscal Cliff >>
Hans Rosling Ikea Boxes >>
Hans Rosling’s New Insights on Poverty >>
Hans Rosling Spread of AIDS >>
Hans Rosling Washing Machine >>
How Fast is Usain Bolt? >>
How Mariano Rivera Dominates Hitters >>
Income Mobility in America  >>
Inside Job  >> Videos (many to choose from) >>
National Debt Road Trip  (Matthias Shapiro) >>
Obama Budget Cuts, In Pennies  (Matthias Shapiro) >>
U.S.A. Inc.  >>
Visualizing How A Population Grows to 7 Billion >>
Wealth Inequality in America >>
What if 4 asteroids were heading toward U.S. in 50 years? >>


Slide Show
Carbon Emissions >>
Our College Crisis (Bill Gates) >>
What the Wall Street Protesters are Angry About  >>


Interactive Graph
Job Report, Diverging Perspectives >>
Obesity Epidemic >>


Static Graph
Napoleon’s March on Russia  >>
The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery >>
Titanic Survivors  >>
Traffic Fatalities >>

Get More Insights by Visualizing Tabular Data using the Cobblestone Table

I’m always interested in new ways to visualize data, so I was thrilled to discover a method for visualizing tables, which I call a “cobblestone table”.

Imagine you have this table showing percentage of Americans with a certain Myers Briggs personality type (I’m a very rare INTJ). It’s hard to see any patterns in this table because each cell is the same size and shape.

But we can draw more inferences if we convert each cell into a different sized shape based on its value, like this.


Now a lot of insights start jumping out

  • There are roughly an equal number of introverts and extroverts
  • There are about twice as many sensing types as intuiting types
  • Sensing types are also more likely to be judging types (the “J” at the end of the 4-letter type)


I have no idea what this table is called, even after researching it extensively. For now, I’m calling it a cobblestone table because of its similarity to cobblestone paths. But if you know its proper name, please leave a comment below.

Cobblestone tables are complex to make. You will have to use the table tool in PowerPoint to size each column, then create separate shapes and resize them accurately. You’ll also have to use the alignment tools to get them lined up neatly. But they are a great visualization tool for exploring or explaining the data.

I’ll be talking about cobblestone tables, as well as a lot of other types of graphs, in my new book “Storytelling with Graphs”, which I hope to have available in the next month or so. If you’d like to be alerted when it’s available, please subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Great Stories Have Contrast, Not Conflict

Many very smart people will tell you that a good story has a structure: situation, conflict, resolution. And that’s ONE way to structure a story and the one that Hollywood depends on most. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.

But you don’t need conflict in a story. Rather, you need CONTRAST. That is, a change in emotion from one extreme to another: sadness changes to happiness, despair changes to hope, hurt changes to forgiveness.

Conflict is often used to generate the initial emotion (eg. boy loses girl) and resolution leads to the opposite emotion (boy gets girl back). But you can have story without conflict, as long as you have contrast.

I love this video, which is a good example of telling a story through contrast. There is no conflict, but the story starts with isolation and ends with friendship, reinforcing the main point: disconnect to connect. Notice how even the MUSIC uses contrast to reinforce the story, changing suddenly from introspective to upbeat.

This is often referred to a “taking the audience on a journey”. A journey from where to where? From one emotion to its opposite emotion. And you can use this same technique to structure your own presentations, whether they are business presentations, sales presentations, educational lectures or conference presentations.

In the immortal “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. takes you on a journey from despair to hope, from contempt to brotherhood. The journey is from one emotion to its opposite emotion.

We see this at work in Hans Rosling’s TED talk. Using Ikea boxes, he takes us on a journey from a mostly poor and needy world to a mostly well-off and aspiring world. Not conflict, but contrast.

That’s storytelling. The contrast of one emotion at the beginning with its opposite emotion at the end. Try that in your next presentation.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.