It's amazing the story a few lines can tell. A few years ago, I attended a seminar by Edward Tufte on data visualization, a pioneer in the field, author of numerous books on the subject, and designer of some pretty amazing infographics. He talked about the human capability of absorbing large amounts of concentrated data, skillfully presented in a visual way. Graphs with thousands of data points can be understood at a glance, the story of the information emerging suddenly from the complexity.
I had a chance to work on such a project when a colleague at Hillsdale College asked me to produce a chart for one of his history classes. He gave me an Excel file with the numbers of members of Congress from each major American political party in each 2-year election cycle, and he wanted to show the trends throughout the years and the balance of political power. Since the emergence of the Republican party in the mid-nineteenth century, Republicans or Democrats have held every presidency and the vast majority of congressional seats. Mapping out their alternating periods of dominance and the speed and intensity of power shifts, and then relating all that information to key historical events, was a fascinating study. I loved the challenge of trying to reveal as much of that information as possible in an attractive, digestible format.