Dataviz podcasts: Visuals in your ears

We all love podcasts, right? Whether you actually enjoy Joe Rogan chewing the cud with Kanye or prefer middle-aged women solving crimes, there’s something intimate about plugging in your earbuds to listen in on an old friend.

So what about our field? We’re all about the visuals, right? There’s something almost cognitively dissonant about an audio podcast for visual storytelling, but there are some great pods out there, and these are some of the best (and in no particular order)…

Data Stories []

If you’re going to do a podcast with XKCD creator Randall Munroe, I’m going to listen to it. If you’re going to talk about dataviz through the medium of hilarious web cartoons, then I’m going to tell all my friends about it too.

If you’re a fan of XKCD, you’re going to love this episode []. If you’re not a fan of XKCD, I can only assume you’ve never read it. Do yourself a favour and go check it out before reading this blog further. You’ll love it. I love it. I literally own the t-shirt.

With Data Stories, Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner have created a space to discuss the challenges and uncertainties of the future and how storytellers – such as those of us working to help people vizualise approaches to Covid-19 management – can affect behaviors and make real change.

The crew are heading towards 200 episodes. At one a day, that’s more than half a year’s worth you’ve got to catch up on. Definitely worth subscribing.

Policy Viz []

Economist-turned-communicator Jonathan Schwabish runs Policy Viz, and is also closing in on 200 episodes of his podcast. The most recent episode (Oct 20, 2020) [] features data journalist/scientist Aaron Williams on inequality in data and design, and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to listen to it.

In recent weeks, Policy Viz have had Kandrea Wade talking about algorithmic identity [], the Financial Times’ Christine Zhang [] talking about using data to tell news stories, and dataviz superstar Manuel Lima [] talking about circles and trees and complexity…

Policy Viz also have some great tutorials on their site, and the HelpMeViz community [] is one of very few places online where you can have your work critiqued as you’re drafting it – and get help improving it.

They’ve also got cool merch for data and design nerds. I’m a big fan of the ‘I’m silently correcting your chart’ t-shirt, and, well, Christmas is coming…

Data Viz Today []

If you like your podcasts to include some actual real-life tips and lessons, you could do a lot worse than checking out Alli Torban’s Data Viz Today podcast. Alli, a former Pentagon analyst, has developed her podcast as she shifted careers into information design, and if you listen from the beginning, it’s almost like learning alongside her.

This is a pod packed with practicality. Tips on how to get your first freelance commission, building your portfolio, bringing people together – even ideas to improve your chart legends!

It’s so practical, you’ll want to take notes as you listen – but Alli’s even taken care of that, by building actionable tips from each week’s show into her weekly newsletter, so you’ll never miss out.  

Storytelling With Data []

A return to the big picture discussions now. Storytelling With Data’s podcast speaks with some of the big names in the business to ask big questions and get some big ideas.

In just the three most recent episodes, Catherine Madden talks about the power of drawing, John Zeratsky talks about some of Google’s processes for collaboration and barriers to distraction, and Andy Kirk talks about ways to take work from good to fantastic.

Founded by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, the author of _Storytelling With Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals_, SWD is a busy consultancy running workshops and helping clients tell their data stories. Their blog is also a must-read, including incisive thoughts on everyday dataviz challenges as well as featuring fellow designers in the trenches performing outstanding work.

Explore Explain []

Having just mentioned Andy Kirk, we really should take a moment to mention his Explore Explain podcast. This one’s a bit different, not least because it’s on YouTube, but Andy’s chats with dataviz designers and developers are always worth a watch.

It’s a young pod in comparison with some of its more senior siblings on the scene, with only nine episodes to catch up on, and its incorporation of the video chat with some of the examples of design offer a fantastic glimpse into the work.

Each episode explores some of the hidden thinking behind their projects and give some great insights into considerations all designers reflect on when making their design decisions. It starts off with Maarten Lambrechts revealing the design story behind “Why Budapest, Warsaw, and Lithuania split themselves in two”, published in 2019 by The Pudding, the supercool people who put out the election color analysis I wrote about last week [].

What are your favorite visual storytelling podcasts? Share your must-listen pods by tweeting at me @TaraTW, or getting on our Master Visual Storytellers Facebook group []


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Balking at free advertising: Why many non-profits aren’t taking full advantage of Google’s offer
A visual storyteller in Portugal dissects guns and white privilege in a new children’s book.
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