Making Data Meaningful

The Long Island Index is a project that gathers and publishes data on Long Island, the largest island adjoining the continental USA. Long Island has a population of 2.75 million people and accounts for 20% of the population of New York State.

According to its website, the Long Island Index does not advocate specific policies.

Instead, our goal is to be a catalyst for action, by engaging the community in thinking about our region and its future. Specifically, the Index seeks to:

  • Measure where we are and show trends over time
  • Encourage regional thinking
  • Compare our situation with other similar regions
  • Increase awareness of issues and an understanding of their interrelatedness
  • Inspire Long Islanders to work together in new ways to achieve shared goals

The Long Island Index was founded by the Rauch Foundation. It believes that “Good information presented in a neutral manner can move policy.”

Over the years, Long Island had been beset by numerous social, financial, educational and environmental challenges. Statistically, the state of decline has  been alarming. But the message was not connecting with the people.

A new approach

So, according to Newsday, a local newspaper, in 2009, the Long Island Index decided to take different approach:

It still will present data neutrally, and it won’t take sides, but it will be much more active in trying to make sure that its ideas and its sense of urgency don’t end when the lights come on after the annual presentation.

Among other things, it will encourage others to spread the word, using the persuasive graphics on its Web site … like the ominous video and interactive maps showing population trends and downtown areas ripe for revitalization.

Below is one of the results of this new approach: a four-and-half minute slide presentation that was created in cooperation with the folks at Duarte, one of the premier presentation design companies in the world.

Notice how the images, words, music, animations and simple colour scheme work together to add punch to the data. The brilliant presentation design means that the statistics now have much more of an emotional impact on the audience. As Duarte says:

The statistics were shocking, but they were still just numbers. Duarte used visuals to dramatize the key points, and convey the sense of urgency and inventiveness required to manage regional community growth with better environmental, economical, and cultural outcomes. The project has gone viral, and far exceeded its anticipated reach.

Have a look and see for yourself.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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