Have you ever heard of a book titled Dear Data? I first learned about it from an article in Wired magazine. The book is not a story, but rather a collection of postcards written between two information designers who communicated in data.
Giorgia Lupi, a resident of Brooklyn whose native tongue is Italian, and Stefanie Posavec, a resident of London who speaks English, first met at a design conference in 2014. At that time, they wondered if they could get to know each other through data without speaking the same language. They proceeded to find out by mailing each other postcards for 52 straight weeks expressed as visualizations.
Each week was a new theme extracted from daily life, such as sleep habits, spending habits, checks of yourself in the mirror, and number of times saying thank you. The book compiles all 104 postcards and positions them side by side with an explanation of each.
You can preview several pages of the book here, and it is absolutely fascinating to see how the same topic can be communicated differently, the way everyday life turns into a visualization, and the detailed artwork on these postcards.
The complexity and mundanity of everyday life jumps off the pages and the legends for interpreting each could definitely get you thinking creatively about new ways to visualize your own data – or life.
Counting Something Means It Matters
The best summary of the book is a quote from Lupi, “counting something means it matters.” Think of all the things you could count about your members. What could you discover about how your members engage with your association?
Let's take it one step further. If your members sent you a postcard every week for one year with a data visualization about their lives, what would the postcards reveal about them, their interests, and their relationship to your organization?
Would your association play a prominent role in the narrative? Would you discover untapped areas of their lives where your organization could add value?
It is unrealistic to ask your members to send weekly postcards, but you can use data analytics to visualize and understand your members and their journeys.
Pulling from data sources like your website, your AMS, and social media, you can paint a complete picture of your members. When we understand our members and customers, we can guide them along a more personalized journey.
Whether through postcards or data analytics, you can get to know somebody through data and that insight can help you better serve your members.