In Search of Insight

This article is part of our 'In Search of Insight' research series

What makes an insightful piece of content or an insightful user experience? We use the term ‘insight’ to encompass such a broad spectrum of information that it’s now just a buzzword. Just the concept of writing an insightful blog on insight is a bit farcical.

The formal definition, from the Oxford English dictionary, defines insight as:

"The capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something"

When broken down to this level it seems simple - we all want to understand things accurately. But in the content world, the challenge is more about providing this capacity. As communicators, we need to find something insightful and understand it, but the value comes when we can share that insight in an effective way.

The ‘deep understanding’ part of the definition proves more challenging and differentiates it from simply reading or viewing a piece of content. In order for the audiences to gain insight, they need to fully grasp the subject or narrative. This process of gaining insight can sometimes be elusive due to its unique part-inspiration part-experience quality; the fact that people need to consume a lot of information to gain a deep understanding of a subject, but even those people sometimes find themselves having an insight without quite knowing how. The ‘lightbulb’ moment is still inexplicable, and that’s why some discovery methods can’t be taught. But they can be encouraged. 


It’s our job to wrap up the insight to make it engaging and to translate it to a visual offering. The problem is that we’re competing with so much information being communicated (we are exposed to the equivalent of 175 newspapers worth of information each day) that it’s very easy to get lost in all of the noise. 

So, we’ve been asking ourselves recently what makes something insightful and useful? Is it the discovery of the insight, or is it more to do with the way that the information is communicated?

In simple terms, there are two steps in the journey of insight:

1) Discovering/Uncovering the insight 

This encompasses the research phase, the analysis and the strategy. A lot of thinking and planning needs to happen to make sure you’re searching for relevant, exciting stories and data. 

2) Communicating insight clearly to your audience 

Once you’ve found your golden nugget of insight, make sure that it’s going to the right people, at the right time, in the right way! 

So what?

From our perspective, as a data design agency, the key area that value can be added is the communication step. What’s the point in having a ground-breaking piece of insight if you can’t get other people to understand it? 

There are many ways that this can be achieved: reports, animations, presentations, infographics, interactive tools. All of these require your audience to engage and interact. 

This is why we think that data visualisation is such a useful resource. It needs to be carried out in a considered way, but it can be the difference between crucial information being received and understood, or falling on deaf ears. 

We’ve decided to look a bit deeper into how we can be cleverer with insight: we’ll be holding a forum to ask people who work with insight everyday for their opinions and advice. We’ll also be exploring insight in a series of articles to - hopefully - share the insights!