Data Visualization

Design guidelines and content strategy for data visualizations from the alternative data company and its online publication, The Business of Business.

Thinknum Alternative Data is a data analytics company that creates new proprietary datasets from publicly available information culled from the web. The New York-based startup indexes these alternative data trails in one platform, providing investors with critical data points that others miss. The company is continuously expanding its collection of datasets to allow analysis across more metrics.

Analysts generate data-driven investment ideas using Thinknum alternative data. As part of its marketing strategy, Thinknum creates content from its data, finding stories that help show how to use the data creatively. The Thinknum website doubles as its own online publication, The Business of Business, highlighting its expertise in data analysis.

Pentagram partner Giorgia Lupi and team, working in collaboration with Accurat, have developed design guidelines for Thinknum that create a distinctive visual look for the use of its data. Applied in data visualizations like charts, tables and other infographics, the system signals that the data is coming from Thinknum, helping to build the brand presence of the company.

Pentagram helped Thinknum reimagine its editorial presence through the use of data—exploring new ways to tell stories with data, and how to utilize the data more effectively. As a startup, Thinknum had the opportunity to establish a distinctive and cohesive look for its data that could grow with the company and become a recognizable part of its brand.

For the Pentagram designers, the project represented a chance to think about brand identity in a new way—through data. Every brand needs an ownable system for articulating their data, similar to a proprietary typeface. Data is at the core of Thinknum’s identity, and the company wanted its chief product to be immediately identifiable.

Data are more important than ever as tools of communication, with the news around recent events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 US presidential election largely described through the use of data visualizations. Platforms like Bloomberg and The Economist have also visually branded their data. Thinknum wanted to stand out in the category and appeal to a younger audience. The challenge for the Pentagram team was to create data visualizations that are functional and easy to understand but also visually unique.

The goal was to create something that looked a little more editorial, to emphasize Thinknum’s strengths as storytellers. The designers developed original styles for charts and graphs that draw from the editorial contexts of magazines and newspapers, rather than digital finance platforms, and that also bring value from a branding perspective.

To create the design guidelines, the Pentagram team analyzed different types of charts, graphs and diagrams to define the common cases and create a cohesive language for telling different types of stories. They considered different formats and scales to go with the visual style of The Business of Business. 

The designers approached the project like a branding challenge, applying the graphic elements of visual identity—color, type and shape—to a system for data visualization. The containers for the data have been redesigned to create an elegant hierarchy of information. The data appears in bright, contemporary colors, overlaid on high-contrast black-and-white backgrounds. The bold and modern look establishes a consistent presence for Thinknum as its data are shared and embedded in stories on other platforms.

The visualizations are dynamic and interactive, designed to be native to digital media. Elements like typography are truly scalable as part of the design (as opposed to adapting static visualizations originally conceived for print to digital). Embed code is provided for each infographic so the interactive charts can be shared with other platforms and publications.

Optimizing the data visualizations for mobile devices was essential, as users increasingly consume information on their mobile phones. The data have been conceived for this format, to preserve the depth of information so they are not lesser versions, but are rather full-fledged visualizations at a smaller scale.

Education was an important part of the project. The Pentagram designers developed a comprehensive guide that shows the journalists how to use charts to tell a story and how to organize information so it is effective. The team also created a standards manual and visual model for the in-house designers at Thinknum, who will continue to build and expand the system based on the recommendations of Pentagram.

New York
Giorgia Lupi
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