Creating data comics for data-driven storytelling
This doctoral thesis investigates research in understanding and creating data comics for datadriven storytelling. Data comic is a novel genre aiming to communicate insights from data through visualizations. Inspired by how audiences read and understand comics, data comics integrate texts and images in the 2D display, map time into space through panels and their ordering. Data comics provide the freedom of space-oriented layout of infographics and annotated charts while supporting the linear narration of videos and live presentations. They open up a potential for expressive storytelling with data visualizations. However, as a new genre of data-driven storytelling, the effectiveness, merits, and drawbacks of data comics are still unknown. Creating data comics is challenging, which requires multiple skills ranging from understanding data, presenting data with visualization techniques, storytelling techniques, drawing, literature to interaction and user-centered design approaches. This thesis investigates two primary questions—Is data comics an effective genre for datadriven storytelling? How to create effective data comics? To answers the two questions, the author creates data comics, distills design patterns, refines creation methods, conducts controlled studies, workshops, collaborative design sessions, and interviews with experts from data visualization, statistics, professional illustrators, industrial visualization practitioners, students from design and data science. Toward understanding and creating data comics for effective communication, this thesis presents (i) a Data Comic Creation Model featuring a structured working process of creating data comics, and as a theoretical framework to summarize the contribution of this thesis; (ii) a lab and an in-the-wild study comparing the effectiveness and engagement of data comics, infographics, and illustrated text; (iii) a structured data comic creation workshop with reusable materials and activities; (iv) data visualization cheat sheets supporting for using and learning visualization techniques; (v) applying data comics in reporting controlled user studies in Human-Computer Interaction; (vi) using interactive data comics for presenting non-linear data stories. At last, the thesis is finished by summarizing each chapter and planned future works. This thesis highlights that data comics as one of the crown jewels of data-driven storytelling are promising for data-driven storytelling. We hope the knowledge, approaches, and techniques presented in this thesis can inform the practice and research of data comics in the future.