Data visualization and storytelling


Unpacking Asia’s complex dynamics with data storytelling

How Kontinentalist uses Flourish to solve technical challenges and promote data literacy

“As part of our mission to elevate conversations about Asia, bridging research and the public through quality data-driven stories, Kontinentalist has found Flourish indispensable. Its no-code interface allows for anyone to quickly get up to speed with the basics of data analysis and visualization, but it’s also relatively easy to customize by coding in our bespoke webpages.”

Mick Yang, Partnerships Manager

Kontinentalist is a Singapore-based and Asia-focused editorial studio that focuses on telling stories about the continent through data and design. They began adopting Flourish in 2017, and have been using the platform for everything from simple pre-programming mockups to sophisticated final visualizations presenting data in an accessible manner to the public. We spoke to Peiying Loh, the studio’s co-founder, to learn more about why Kontinentalist uses Flourish and how they integrate the tool extensively across their stories’ life cycle.

Since its founding, Kontinentalist has led the conversation around data storytelling in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Moving forward, they want to use their website and social media content to promote data literacy in the area, especially to younger audiences who are more digitally engaged than ever. Since Flourish’s mission is to democratize data storytelling, using our tool to tell complex stories about the continent seemed like the perfect match.

Newsroom plans and no-coding templates: how Flourish bridged the gap for Kontinentalist

As a team with diverse skillsets, Kontinentalist values Flourish because it allows non-developers to create beautiful graphics without complex programming, solving both technical and communication challenges and saving the team time. “Flourish’s generous free package makes it possible for small news organizations like ours without loads of money to tell stories with data”, co-founder Peiying Loh said.

Kontinentalist makes the most out of Flourish no-code templates to create content like this cards visualization featured in their article "The origins of coffee in Asia"

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Flourish as a one-stop shop: from drafting and storyboarding to the final product

Flourish is integrated into every stage of Kontinentalist’s process and most of its teams. Designers embed Flourish charts for online content, while developers create scrollies for more complex projects. From uploading and analyzing data to storyboarding narratives and embedding final visualizations, the tool has become essential to the organization’s workflow. Not everything is planned beforehand though: sometimes, the team pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in Flourish through tweaks to embed codes and trial and error changes to template settings.

Responsiveness, interactivity and a wide range of templates: what Kontinentalist loves about Flourish

Chatting with the Kontinentalist team about their favorite Flourish templates and features returned a variety of responses. Peiying remembered being “sold” by the Survey template when she first played around with its interactive settings on Flourish’s Features page. Other favorites are the Pictogram template and the Cards template, the latter of which designers liked for their ability to flip with a hovering cursor.

Some of Kontinentalist’s favorite features included customizable popups across most templates and the ability to change the background colors of visualizations. For data visualization designer Bianchi, the ability to rescale charts was hugely beneficial when she was testing content across multiple screen sizes.

For their article “Sexual violence in Singapore: a crisis” they used scrollytelling and our Hierarchy and Survey templates to explain the numbers behind data around sexual abuse in the country.

We start by representing each victim with a dot (e.g., V1), grouped by their cases (e.g., C1). Almost all perpetrators are male.

Victims are mostly female.

Several cases involve multiple victims, and some have an unspecified number of victims reported—as shown by a single red bubble. The actual total number of victims is unknown, and likely greater than what we know.

Most victims in our sample are minors, defined here to be under 16 years of age—the legal age of sexual consent.

And even among minors, most are below 14—the threshold for statutory rape.

For male victims, most are under 16. It’s clear that victims face sexual violence when they’re relatively young.

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Interactive charts have a positive effect on engagement

The organization has evaluated viewer engagement with its data stories through both quantitative and qualitative means since its inception. For example, projects that garner the most social media messages and emails from readers are considered successful, while the Kontinentalist team uses HotJar to see how people interact with stories. They have noticed that stories with interactive elements work especially well when heavy reading isn’t involved, but that non-interactive stories can be just as impactful.

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Pushing templates and experimenting: Kontinentalist’s tips for Flourish users

During their four years of using Flourish, Kontinentalist has learned to push templates as far as possible and to play around with every setting to produce unexpected results. They’d advise other users to do the same, using trial and error to transform how they tell stories with data.

If you’re interested in Kontinentalist’s Singapore-based data storytelling work, be sure to check out their ongoing workshops here.

Have you created a project using Flourish for your publication or organization and are interested in being featured in a customer story? Get in touch!