Apr 20

Introducing the Marie 'Data' Kondo

Our clients love data, and killing their darlings (aka leaving out data for the story) is not their favourite pastime. Still: when creating information designs, all data is not equal and you have to pick and choose. Deciding what to include and what not to is hard, but we’ve developed a method to tackle that problem: introducing the Marie ‘Data’ Kondo.

Drag to resize
Data is the basis of information design. It can make or break your design. Including too much data might confuse your audience, make it impossible for them to discern your main message. Including too little data will miss the mark of informing them completely. And than there’s data that’s just plain wrong.

So how do you choose the right data and the right amount of data? 

Enter the Marie ‘data’ Kondo, a method we developed to choose what data to include in an infographic and which data to ‘store’ or ‘toss’. You probably know the Japanese Marie Kondo as the Queen of Tidying up. She claims she’s been obsessed with organizing since she was a child and developed the KondoMari method as an approach to clean up your living space. A skill that comes in very handy when organizing data too.
Marie Kondo, queen of tidying up. Photo credit: Web Summit
Drag to resize
Her method basically is: take out all that you’ve got from a certain category, such as all your clothes, all your kitchen stuff, all your boxed items in the attic and organize by category. Hold every indvidual item in your hands and ask yourself ‘what sparks joy’. If it does, it’s a keeper, if it doesn’t you either put it on the ‘toss’ or ‘store’ pile.

What data sparks joy?
Our Marie ‘Data’ Kondo basically mirrors this approach. We map out all the data we have, and carefully select ‘what sparks joy’. With this we mean: what data will really support the information design’s main goal. Because, from a datanerd perspective, all data may spark joy, but the exscersize is really meant to pick and choose the right data for your goal. 

This means that before you can start a Marie ‘Data’ Kondo you have to have a clear goal and define whether each data set will support that goal or not. Setting clear goals serve as organizing principle for your data. What do you want to accomplish? What type of information do you need and what’s the basic narrative?

So the right data depends on the context and the goal. It’s obvious that data needs to be reliable, well-sourced and correct. Doing the Marie ‘Data’ Kondo means getting all the data sets ‘out of the closet’. We need to see the numbers, and scan them for possible inclusion in the information design. Once everything’s out, we start categorizing the information. Setting clear labels for each data set, grouping them together and giving names to each category helps create an overview of all that you have.

After that it’s kill your darlings time: what do we include, what do we toss? When in doubt: store it for later review.
Drag to resize
If you want to learn more about information design, check out any of our courses or follow us for updates, tips and tutorials.

Learn to tell stories with data.

Created with