Telling stories with data


Data has become the most important resource for every organisation – but the insights gained from data analysis will only ever be truly valuable if they can be clearly expressed to other people. This course is for anybody who works with data, and needs to communicate the meaning that's in the numbers to colleagues, customers, bosses or external stakeholders. It will give you or your team the confidence and skills to translate raw data into compelling visual stories for your key audiences. The principles and skills covered apply to the simplest PowerPoint chart, to more complex interactive visualisations. We’ll work with you before the course to ensure that we understand your organisation and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Sample learning content

Session 1: What makes a great data-driven story

  • The key elements of a successful infographic or presentation.

  • Industry best practice, and discussion of good (and bad) examples.

  • The principles of self-sufficiency, and clarity over decoration.

Session 2: Structuring the story

  • Understanding the context in which your data will be presented.

  • Structuring large reports, and dealing with diverse audiences.

  • Using supporting text and commentary alongside visuals.

Session 3: Designing for the human brain

  • Using visual patterns to create cognitive shortcuts.

  • Design and layout principles, and creating hierarchies of information.

  • Simple and repeatable tricks (for non-designers)

Session 4: Going digital

  • Free (and cheap) tools for creating infographics and visualisations.

  • Thinking in layers to create interactive data stories.

  • Resources for finding images, charts and icons.

We can deliver this content as in-house training, workshops, or remote online tuition. All of our courses are interactive – every session includes a mix of formal tuition and hands-on exercises.


Alan Rutter is the founder of Fire Plus Algebra. He is a specialist in communicating complex subjects through data visualisation, writing and design. He teaches for General Assembly and runs in-house training for public sector clients including the Home Office, the Department of Transport, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Health Foundation, and numerous local government and emergency services teams. He previously worked with Guardian Masterclasses on curating and delivering new course strands, including developing and teaching their B2B data visualisation courses. He oversaw the iPad edition launches of Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair and Vogue in the UK, and has worked with Condé Nast International as product owner on a bespoke digital asset management system for their 11 global markets.


“I was familiar with Alan’s work as a Guardian Masterclass instructor on data visualisation and digital journalism, which made it easy for me to recommend him for onsite training at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. We had a large group of people interested in honing their abilities to depict their research and stories in engaging ways. Alan’s course provided great insight about common communication pitfalls and how to avoid them, how to become better communicators by understanding the audience diversity, and it showcased some great online tools for creating infographics. This should be mandatory training for all students, academics, report writers and those involved with conveying research to the media as it will help increase the clarity and accessibility of our own research stories.”
Dr Lee Haines | Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine