Stage 3 Talent

The Makings of a Good Visualization – Word Cloud Edition

Data analysts, engineers, and scientists must find ways to present data to others in a way that makes sense. There is a lot more to a visualization besides the visualization itself that can make or break the stories we tell from data. Let’s take a look at some of the things that matter.

As it is close to Halloween, we are going to use an aptly-timed dataset – the IMDB Horror Movie Dataset from Kaggle.


The color palette for a visualization can make or break the story. Sometimes, patterns for a background may make sense. However, keep in mind that patterns in a background may detract attention from the key data.

Solid color backgrounds work well for presenting data. White and black are most common, though many tools offer a lot more colors on the color palette.

Consider this word cloud we made from the movie titles in our Horror Movie dataset:

When talking of dark topics, it may be more fitting to use a darker background:

The color palette for Halloween does not typically include pinks, purples, or brighter colors. As Halloween typically uses blacks and oranges, we can update our word cloud accordingly:

Using the right color scheme can help set the stage for a good story.


Fonts are another element that are crucial for storytelling with data visualizations. Fonts can convey a variety of voices. Consider what it would look like if we used a fun, light-hearted font such as Comic Sans MS.

These horror terms don’t seem as scary because of the font being used to deliver the message.

The regular, common fonts – such as Arial, Helvetica, and Times New Roman – have a plain tone to them. The scariness level tends to be at a neutral level.

Now let’s consider a font that is scarier in its nature – Chiller. This is what our word cloud looks like:

The message carried with Chiller seems a bit scarier than the plain messaging with the default font.


The shape of the word cloud can make a difference in the story it tells as well. So far, we have presented our word cloud in standard, unshaped word clouds. However, we want to show how scary horror movies can be.

In terms of Halloween and creepy depictions, what if we showed our horror titles in the shape of a tombstone?

Would a skull carry the scariness?

Bringing It All Together

It is important to realize that none of these factors stand on their own. When you combine color, font, and shape, the message can be conveyed with a better stage. If you mess up one of those choices, it can break the story. How creepy are our horror films in a Comic Sans font in a skull shape?

You can see that this is a scary topic, in a scary stage, being told in a happy voice. That can lead to confusion.

How does our word cloud of horror film titles feel when we use a skull, with more greys and blacks in the cloud, firebrick red for the outline, and Chiller for the font? Does this convey the scary story better than the previous skulls?

When you choose the right colors, fonts, and shapes, the word cloud can convey the data story a bit more accurately.

If you want to learn more about building data visualizations and using them to tell those stories, reach out to us at for more details!