Designing experiences through data stories

Mara Pometti
13 min readMar 22, 2022

Authors: Marion Brülls, Mara Pometti, Ellice Heintze

Originally published on IBM Design

The data visualization I made after processing with NLP the textual data extracted from the interviews of a newsletter I used to curate and manage over 2020–2021.

Data is everywhere. Yet, it’s not always clear how to create meaningful content that drives action and decisions using data: the lack of a cohesive story connecting the data is the problem. At IBM, we have experimented with a novel approach that uses data storytelling as a catalyst for designing an experience enabling higher efficiency and providing more value for our users and customers. By collaborating with multiple teams across IBM we brought together designers, data journalists, and data scientists to renovate product design with a new and unique approach based on data storytelling.

While designing with data you most likely have come across the challenge of making data more consumable and trustworthy for users. Data appears intimidating and complicated to understand by non-experts because of its complex and tangled nature. However, we must remember that data is a by-product of our digital lives: although we don’t realize it, we generate data during almost every action of our daily life. This means that data is a human product before being converted into numbers and code. The real challenge we are called to address is how we might return to that human side of data using tangible and cohesive stories infused throughout products and experiences.

An example of a data visualization I made for clients in support of the AI strategy I develop for them. (Data have been changed and modified for privacy reasons).
An example of Data Storytelling I made at the beginning of the covid pandemic to translate Machine Learning Predictions into visual stories.

We believe that applying a narrative approach to data in the context of user experience and product design can eventually help users perceive the human side of the data they utilize and understand how it affects their jobs and lives. Dashboards, graphs, and visualizations do not necessarily tell the stories hidden in the data. Data visualization is a tool that we use to discover what the data is saying. Through visualizations, we reveal insights and separate findings — this is great for the purposes of a research process, but eventually we also have to connect the insights we find in the data to create an…

Mara Pometti

AI Strategy at IBM. “The most valuable commodity in business today, if people would only recognize it, is enthusiasm” –R.J.