CMO View: On Making Data Truly Beautiful and Contagious Opinion

By Will McInnes on November 10th 2015

Design is a magical power as far as I’m concerned. Let’s take a moment to think about design and data.

First of all, the difference between a gorgeously simple user experience (I think of the Uber and British Airways apps) or Apple packaging (yes, I’m using Apple) and the humdrum offerings of the everyman.

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These are competitive advantages.

I know I show genuine preference – I buy more, more frequently from the companies that I find it pleasurable and easy to work with. I also recommend them because I want others to share in these experiences.

My bank, sadly and predictably, provides a powerful counterexample. A great app experience and global brand can’t paper over the genuine stress I experience whenever I need to deal with them on the phone, which is often.

Despite inertia, I will leave them. The lack of design thinking in their business processes, the lack of regard for me the human – it is unforgivable.


Gaining the edge

At Brandwatch we think of design as a super power.

The company has been lucky. Our founder-CEO Giles, and Chief Creative Officer Katja built a powerful design partnership and a department that transcended marketing, brand and vitally product, and today even further into office environments, customer processes and a wider culture of design thinking.

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We know this gives us an edge.

Our touch points look and feel great. More importantly our products look and feel great. They are desirable – people want them.

At our best, our design makes us seductive. And we plan to double down on this advantage. To use this secret weapon more actively beyond the scope of ‘traditional’ design.

Now let’s flick to the data world.


Data is beautiful, right?

How often is data beautiful?

I suppose it is in the eye of the beholder, and I am reminded how often we find intelligent people attractive – data feels similar. Its natural beauty is often in its utility, the clean helpful declarations that it makes on a good day.

But how often is it both beautifully useful and gorgeous to interact with?

Not enough, right?

It is Excel and not Keynote.

Too often it is numbers and not charts, charts and not stories.

It’s a two minute explanation, not a 20 second irresistible knowledge bomb.

We’ve allowed data to reside in left-brain land. Cold, inert, factual, emotionless, data.

The works of Edward Tufte, and David McCandless’ Information is Beautiful (among others), along with data journalism, have helped to change this.

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They have helped conjure visual stories from data and made data more accessible and malleable. Our direction of travel is better, as a business and design community.


Making data contagious

All too often, good insights work doesn’t get consumed or acted on because it just doesn’t grab the attention.

If we can use the magical power of design even more, we can see ways to really change how information flows in organizations, how decisions get made, and how people work together.

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So, at Brandwatch we are investing more in our design teams.

We are deploying them further into the core of our business. And with our products – where it really matters most – we plan to make your data contagious.

So gorgeous it cannot be suppressed, ignored or resisted.

We are busy designing experiences that are going to get our users to answers faster, and more enjoyably – and help them by making their outputs contagiously gorgeous.

We think this is a huge opportunity for our customers. We love the combination of design and data. It is a groove we’ve been playing in for some time, and now we’re going deeper.



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