9 details I loved in 2022’s Iron Viz entries

On his blog visualisingdata.com, Andy Kirk has published a series of blogposts around the ‘little of visualisation design’, in which he focuses on the little details that make a huge difference. If you haven’t read it yet, go on Andy’s blog now, and then come back to thank me, you’re welcome.

I’d like to replicate the exercise and highlight some of the awesome details I saw in the entries of the data visualisation competition Iron Viz. This list is not exhaustive ; if your viz is not included, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The quality was fire this year. Besides, my goal is not to list my fave viz, just a couple of details that made me chef kiss my computer on a Sunday afternoon and even, consider opening a YouTube reaction channel where I shout my love of other people’s dataviz sprinkled with French swear words (solid concept eh?).

Trends I notice this year in Iron Viz:

  • A good year for horizontal scrolldown, not an easy format at all – yet, you guys rocked it
  • Many clever techniques to reveal the viz little by little, via click actions required from the user
  • Lot of entries exuded fun.

9 details I loved about 2022’s entries

  1. The selective art of colours
  2. Be daring with boring charts
  3. Using the colours and design of your topic in a tactful manner
  4. When your chart type evokes the topic you are covering
  5. Selecting the right datapoints
  6. Documenting via a video / audio guide
  7. How not to make your viz look as complex as it is at first sight
  8. How to encourage the reader to re-visit your viz with a new pair of eyes
  9. Fun in dataviz

1/ No, you don’t need 9 colours to convey meaning

Ervin Vinzon for his One Piece managed to represent a topic in its complexity with only shades of grey and 1 accent colour. See, it’s possible!

2/ Some charts should be banished… nah actually, all charts have a use case, you just didn’t know

I very rarely see the point of treemaps. However, it is possible that Dinushki De Livera’s converted me because her Colors of Van Gogh makes a good use of them to reveal colour palette progression in Van Gogh’s work.

Meanwhile, I genuinely don’t get the hate pie charts get and don’t even @ me, I’ll tear you down on this one. It brings so much joy to me that Jessica Moon’s used a new combo, let’s call them lollipies in her Comedy in Huntsville, AL.

3/ Taking design elements from your topic… while creating your own identity: the colour palette edition

Adam Green, : integrated elements from Roy Lichstenstein in his design of Intro to pop art, while keeping his unique touch. This is a fun viz to explore!

Shout out to Wendy Shijia too, who used tactfully Google’s colour palette in her Learning about the world through doodle art viz: Google’s logo colours are hard on the eye, especially if you put the blue and red next to each other, they vibrate. Receding the colours (I can’t remember the technical term, please don’t sue me :D) is a detail that makes a huge difference.

4/ When your design and your topic merge: chart types

I like nothing more than a classic chart which designs ties with the topic. For instance, I used lollipop chart in the shape of trees in my geocaching viz, cause you know, geocaching is an outdoor activity.

Nicole Klassen put this to the next level in her Next to Normal viz, I mean, LOOK A GUITAR:

Same concept in Ant Pulleys’ Making Music – Leisure Time Music Across the UK viz: this Cleveland dot plot that that looks like music on a sheet, I AM HERE FOR THAT TYPE OF DETAILS  

5/ The right datapoints

On Twitter, everyone praised Kim Tricker for her sleek design on her Women in Film. I totally agree of course, but I have to say, I was even more impressed by how compelling her storytelling is with just a few cleverly selected datapoints. You absolute Queen.

6/ Accessibility and storytelling

I added an audio transcript in one of my vizzes recently but Emily De Padua went so much further in the 19′ listener guide of Color Studies. A special shout out for this one, because, once you finished a viz, the last thing you want to do is to spend more time recording and explaining it. And yet, it’s a precious thing. THANK YOU.

7/ There is an art in enticing the reader in a complex viz

CJ MayesThe art of conversation: so many details in the design recede (the instructions, the dotted lines between the sections etc.) to help you immerse. And then BAM, you realise the viz is actually 10x more in-depth that you thought at first.

8/ Storytelling like an onion

Nathalie Richer, Women Artworks at MoMA: what a classy execution. The horizontal scroll works so well here and I am usually not a fan. I love the fact that you have to click for details but even more, when you finish the viz, those spiders that invite you to re-visit the viz, such a neat idea!

9/ Practitioners just want to have fun

I love how Annabelle Rincon’s Tintin in the Data World includes an engine to translate the name of Tintin in… your own language or other languages like latin. You know, in case you need to go back to Ancient Rome and have a conversation about your favourite Tintin characters 😀

I’m gonna finish my tour with Will Sutton, Interpreting Art: this sparks so much joy. The fact that there’s a quiz at the beginning, creates a strong “what about me (and my results)” component and entices the reader in the topic.

That’s a wrap folks!

Final note: many countries are not eligible for the global #ironviz qualifiers, therefore disqualifying many talents in the world. For instance, it would be shame not to give more visibility to Idris Akilapa’s Afrobeat & Afrobeats, a viz that gave me an intro on a topic on which I have absolutely 0 knowledge. That’s what I love the most about those competitions!

Re-Viz-It: why I revamped my viz on the musical Hamilton

I love it when data folks are transparent about where they are coming from and how much progress they’ve done. It would be very easy to assume that “some people are natural and I will never manage it”.

This month, Iron Quest, the dataviz challenge to help practise for Tableau’s annual competition Iron Viz, is on the theme of Re-Viz-It, announced Sarah Bartlett on her blog: “we’re challenging you to re-visit an older viz from your portfolio and re-create it with the #IronViz scoring criteria in mind; design, storytelling and analysis.”

And since this is exactly what I did for Iron Viz, I thought I would share some thoughts about how and why I revisited my viz on the musical Hamilton’s motifs.

From this to that

Wait, isn’t it cheating to revamp an old viz and enter it for Iron Viz?

  • Iron Viz is not the reason I revamped this viz: Hamilton will celebrate its 7th (a magic number in the musical) anniversary in a couple of days and I really wanted this date to share again my love for the musical.
  • There is no rule in Iron Viz that states you need to create brand new content
  • For what it’s worth: I’ve seen the excellent work submitted for Iron Viz; since my topic is very niche and not general public (see my first blog on this viz here), I don’t think I stand a chance to end up in the qualifiers like last year. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be part of the collective effort.
  • More importantly, I hope the following blogpost will convince you I just didn’t lazily work on two things and posted for the sake of.

Ok so why did I revisited this viz?

I just don’t like it: I have mentioned that I wanted to revamp it last July here and I have been frustrated by it since I published it.

Things that bugged me the most:

  • Hard to comprehend
  • Too text heavy (I mean, it’s still text heavy but hey)
  • Design is bulky and at the same time, way too close to the official website of the musical (which is not heavy or bulky). I need to break free a bit
  • Font issues in Tableau public – see Judit Bekker’s guide on how to use fonts in Tableau
  • I didn’t know how to turn off highlighting
  • I didn’t know how to use parameter to create a progression timeline
  • Too many icons, too many colours. When you have so much text, you can’t have so much clutter.
  • Not even slightly easy to read on mobile
What do fashion and dataviz have in common? Source AZ quotes

What I’m happy with and kept:

  1. I’m ok with the fact that this is not a viz for the general public. It’s better to have watched Hamilton before reading this piece, and probably only 2% of my audience will read the whole section 2. I’m ok with that 😊
  2. I kept the funnel approach: an intro to the topic, a very detailed analysis and a sandbox where people can play and run their own research.

What I reworked:

  1. Shorter text. It doesn’t look like it, but I promise I ditched quite a lot!
  2. A better intro to the topic, with 2 charts, one easy to read (the jitterchart scatterplot) and an arc diagram.
  3. Better sign posting of the different charts
  4. Completely regrouped the data  differently, which was a lot of manual work no one needs me to describe!
  5. A lighter design – for instance, I already mentioned that the light yellowish background is to increases attentional focus since the viz topic is complex, and it is long to read.
  6. A long scrolling format, much easier to navigate in one go and to adapt in mobile
  7. Talking about mobile: there is no way to make the sandbox feature work because you cannot change the Parameter Font Size. I ditched it. I’m not saying the mobile version is good – but it’s out there, hopefully so that hardcore Hamilton fans get a sneak peek before jumping on a classic desktop 😊

Was it worth re-vizzing my work?

If I am counting on visits, or my productivity ratio: absolutely not. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I re-vizzed because my initial viz bugged me. And this new one sparks more joy.

My tips if you are thinking of participating to the re-viz it IronQuest challenge:

  • Ask for constructive yet frank feedback: no point in beating around the bush, you need to know what to tackle first to prioritise your time
  • Ask feedback from different people: dataviz professionals, people that are scared by anything that looks more complicated than a bar chart, people into the topic, people who know nothing about the topic you are covering  
  • Keep a list of what worked well in your original version
  • For what didn’t work well: what was your intention? What were your constraints?

With that in mind, you’re gonna rock your IronQuest challenge!

Anne-Sophie  

Hamilton Motifs – how I (re)created my dataviz

Link to the viz Hamilton: the outstanding usage of motifs in the American musical

Link to the viz Hamilton: the outstanding usage of motifs in the American musical

On the 17th of February, Hamilton will celebrate its 7th anniversary: an optimal time to celebrate my favourite musical and more specifically, my preferred part of it: its text.

I’ve seen it live on stage twice in London and a couple of times on Disney+ and I kid you not: every time, I discover something new about the meaning of the story, and how the setting, lighting, choregraphy and overall set design reinforce it.

Tableau’s dataviz competition Iron Viz’s deadline helped me focus on this project on which I spent approx. 100 hours this time around. To be completely transparent with you reader, this is not my first attempt at covering the topic, and I have covered why I’ve re-vizzed-it in another blogpost.

Let’s focus on my 2022 viz!

# 1 Goal and audience

This viz is not an introduction to Hamilton: it’s a viz for people who’ve seen and enjoyed it and want to dig deeper into its many themes.

As such, it contains a spoiler alert in the intro:

Spoiler alert: important details of the musical are revealed!
Spoiler alert: important details of the musical are revealed!

And is quite wordy and I am not expecting anyone who is not interested in the musical to focus for long and read it, especially the second part!

#2 Getting the data

Genius.com and a bit of webscrapping with webscraper.io, my favourite tool for scraping without learning Beautiful Soup!

#3 Analysis

I am in debt of the following sources:

#4 Creating the dataviz in the tool Tableau / technical challenges

  1. Intro: simple jitter in a chart, see Data School tutorial here

Why this chart? Because the jitter evokes notes on a music sheet and because without the jitter, you have this chunky effect:

You can then toggle with another chart to sort out by occurences by songs, instead of repetition of the motifs. The shape is an arc because it ties nicely with the next visualisation…

  • Part 1: arcs diagrams to create jumps between songs

I’m in love with arc diagrams and they brought me luck last year at Ironviz, when I used them in my 6 reasons to (re)watch Buffy.

When the data is right, I find they have this interesting mix of wow while being intuitively read. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have flatten them as much but hey, I didn’t want to make you scroll forever 😀

I once again used Ken’s Flerlage tutorial and template – creating an Arc Sankey in Tableau and even had an epiphany

#5 Design

It’s the third time I use Figma and there is no turning back! I used to design my backgrounds in PowerPoint and Figma was very intuitive to me, after watching the dataviz tutorials out therefrom Ghafar Shah, and Autumn Battani and Lindsay Betzendahl.

In all transparency, it’s only after I published that I realised I probably got a lot inspired by Dinushki De Livera:

one of my fave viz in the world: Dinushki De Livera’s 2019 IronViz feeder entry
Firebird Suite

Colours

A light yellowish background: a couple of months ago, I completed a LinkedIn Learning course on the Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell and Jill Butler. And one thing I learnt around (the numerous effects) of the colour yellow: it increases attentional focus and perhaps even cognitive performance. My viz is complex, long to read so I need to help my reader.

Other colours: each character is represented by the colour of their main outfit during the musical. I’m gonna be honest, I thought the Tableau 20 colour palette was doing a decent job (well, Tableau thought about them a lot) so I used them.

Fonts

If you are vizzing in Tableau Public, you have probably already bookmarked Judit Bekker’s guide on how to use fonts in Tableau: following her blog, I used Georgia for the most part. The elegant handwriting font is Tangerine, it’s supposed to have a 16-17th century look (so dated for Hamilton) but it looked so good with the arcs of part 1.

Look at this beautiful font

I used a third, which is usually a no-no in design but there’s a reason! The title Hamilton is in Cinzel, but it’s more like a “logo” than a different font.

#6 What about mobile?

Ok, so I’m very stubborn but I always to give the possibility for my reader to have a sneak peek of the dataviz even if they are on their smartphone.

The mobile version is not optimal but I’ve shorten the text, increased the font size and put a warning in the header to recommend people to bookmark the link for when they are on their mobile 🙂

The mobile version has a little header to encourage people to read this on desktop

#7 Getting feedback

I’m going to sound like a broken record but feedback is key, whether coming from dataviz professionals or your audience.

In the dataviz field,I went to Michelle Frayman and Zaks Geis‘ weekly #vizofficehours when my viz was still in its infancy; and joined twice the additional Iron Viz ad hoc office hours organised by Sarah Bartlett where I got additional feedback from Sarah, Michelle and Judit Bekker.

That’s all folks, any question, do not hesitate!

Anne-Sophie