Our founders' journey in bridging the gap between quantitative analysis and creative storytelling
Data Storytelling. Say it with me "data-story-telling," nice ring to it, right? For those of us who aren't as savvy to the idea of a data bedtime story as our Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, meet Gwen and Ellesse—co-founders of Declarative Labs, a women-owned-and-operated collective of strategists, designers, data scientists, writers, coders, researchers, and filmmakers.
Declarative’s origin story is rooted in instinct, disruption, and a leap of faith to embark on an entrepreneurial endeavor. Amidst the turbulent nature of the pandemic, Gwen and Ellesse discovered an opportunity to join forces in a way that disrupts business as usual. Gwendolyn Reynolds, the innovative data scientist, and Ellesse Balli, the creative storyteller, teamed up to harness the power of measuring and communicating impact for good. Committed to infusing humanity into data, design, and storytelling, they started their own creative business consultancy.
Gwendolyn Reynolds is a data connoisseur whose interest in metrics started as a child. Some of her core memories are at her father’s office, helping with data entry projects. Transfixed by Excel pivot tables, she went on to study multiple languages, econometrics, and statistics. She was always obsessed with patterns and looked for them everywhere; in math equations, code, and foreign languages (and she even studied all three at Harvard). Her love of language and mathematics makes her data storytelling both captivating and meaningful. It’s rare to understand complex data analysis and be able to explain it to the masses. But, of course, Super Gwen can do both exceptionally and truly believes in the value of being able to communicate data.
“I think our most beautiful projects are our most impactful ones. The ones that touch the human heart and change your mind are the ones that do both.” —Gwen Reynolds
Ellesse Balli, an award-winning impact filmmaker and compelling narrator, began her love of stories as a curious kid with a library card and a basket full of books. Ellesse credits her mother for always making books feel special and for her overdue library fees. Classically trained in oil painting, she married her love of language and passion for the arts into a fulfilling career specializing in design, film, and storytelling. Ellesse uses brand anthems and strategic messaging to elevate impact stories, evoke emotion, and spark joy through bespoke deliverables. We’d expect nothing else from the self-proclaimed “uber-nerd” who won first place in her high school international future problem-solving academic bowl.
“Combining quant with creative allows us to tell stories that have weight and are indicative of what's important and impactful.” —Ellesse Balli
In corporate America, many have probably felt disconnected from other teams or departments in an organization; it’s an all too familiar feeling. Gwen and Ellesse previously worked at the same company and similarly felt siloed from each other. Gwen was head down, eyes glued to her computer screen, crunching numbers deep in her data cave of quantitative analysis. Ellesse was driving creativity by leading the company’s dynamic branding and telling stories about impact investment. Then, one fateful day, Gwen burst into Ellesse's office with a fire in her eyes and an exasperated tone and exclaimed, "It's not just the aggregate data that are so vital for organizations; it's also drilling down to the individual story or narrative!"
Gwen's desire to collaborate came from the vision of combining the human and emotive perspective with analytics and data science. We know what data is and why we need it, and for so long, we've left it to the experts, and for a good reason. But as humans, it's our nature to want to understand more. A deeper understanding is crucial for driving equitable and evidence-based decision-making as the world keeps moving forward. Understanding the meaning behind the numbers can no longer just be left to those with a Ph.D.
Unfortunately, not all data is user-friendly, and not all data scientists have the time or the communicative training needed to break data down for all to understand. So we are surrounded by a plethora of information and often not sure what to do with it. For Declarative, it's essential that data be shared in a way that turns complex numbers into opportunities that spark joy, change beliefs, and inspire positive action. Information needs to be digestible, understandable, and usable.
“Declarative is bringing people into the conversation, inviting them to be active participants without that barrier of a four-year Ph.D.” —Gwen Reynolds
Declarative works in lockstep with our clients on their impact journey, ensuring true partnership when collaborating. Each project is approached with curiosity as we begin by immersing ourselves in learning all about the client, their mission, and purpose. Utilizing three versatile tools; data, design, and dynamic storytelling, we bring our clients' impact to life through visually compelling and captivating narratives. Declarative works with well-intentioned, mission-driven, and value-aligned clients willing to embrace our creative process and culture of collaboration.
Are you ready to amplify your impact? Declarative looks forward to collaborating with you.