April 26, 2018
Read the full post to find out what the insight from this chart and Michael Phelps have in common.
There is so much I want to say about the value of makeovers, but that’s a topic for an entirely different post. It’s my honest opinion that participating in exercises such as these the best way to learn short from having a great team to push you every day. I share a few specific suggestions on how to get going in a past post if you’re looking for more encouragement.
As more proof of the value, these makeovers can bring you, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Craig Dewar who I met at a #MakeoverMonday hosted by Fi Gordon in Sydney. There is no community like the Tableau community. These makeovers keep making us tighter and tighter. Craig has been silently helping make sense of my writing this whole week. You can read his approach to the makeover on his blog.
Time for the redesign!
We don’t see makeovers from Cole often, so this is a rare treat. As a student of storytelling with data and a huge fan of her work, I am going to align this redesign with her values as closely as possible. Cole shares her guiding principles in a separate post you can read for more details.
How I put Cole’s sever principles into practice
Be clear on intent Instead enriching the data for consumers to explore, I chose to state one clear point for the users.
The right graph creates an “aha” moment I could make a contrived argument for the “aha” of this trend line, but I’ll save you the time. I don’t think I found a shiny diamond in the rough. I have seen others do a good job pulling out gems like Mike Cisneros, but I wasn’t as successful. So, instead of over exerting myself I practiced simplicity. The only “aha” I present is that there isn’t much of one 😕
Don’t over complicate I’ll admit that my first redesign was a little more “fun”, but that fun comes at the cost of readability. I wanted to show you something interesting, soo badly that I went out of my way to create something interesting.
Alas I fell back to keeping it simple.
The trend line leaves me wanting, but at least it is readable. Most people I have shown the chart to ask me “is 7 mph is significant?” Well, it is if you’re swimming. 7 mph is just a hair faster than Michael Phelps’s max speed.
Get rid of nonessentials This might be my favorite principle. How can you creatively cut clutter? Notice how I didn’t repeat “category” when labeling the reference lines. You get the full label at the top of the chart and only see the category numbers on the following lines, which is enough after you know the numbers refer to a category.
I also didn’t use a y-axis or label. Cole probably won’t like that design choice, but I made this design choice to avoid drawing attention away from the trend line.
I want attention to stay on the trend line as much as possible, therefore adding pixels in a place I don’t want your attention is only a distraction. Now, had I not added “mph” to the labels, this choice would be harder to defend. With the text in place, you can infer what’s data is on the vertical axis.
In summary, if you have made the information clear and consistent there’s probably an opportunity to remove redundancy.
Make it clear where to look Placing the trend in front of other marks is important, but what really makes it pop here is the accented color. Contrast is king when creating visuals that stand out.
Words make a graph accessible I was hesitant to add an annotation, but everyone I shared this viz with was immediately drawn to the peaks and valleys, not the ends where I wanted them to look. So to answer the questions brought up by the peaks and valleys I added an annotation that fits in between the hurricanes dotting the chart.
Audience trumps all else In public makeovers you have more liberties than usual. Use this to your advantage! Take a unique angle to strengthen your ability to communicate with data. For instance, I could have created something to warn those affected by hurricanes of their impending doom with a map and more doomsday esque messaging. I could have practiced some trig to please the swirly chart fans. However, I wanted to push myself to practice Cole’s principles. It’s principles like these that transfer to any role requiring you to communicate with data. As someone who likes to approach life in a principled way, this was a win-win angle.
Big shout out to Mike Cisneros who has already provided invaluable feedback. The original post was very different one than what you see now. Before Mike’s feedback, I was very confused by the wind speeds, so I make several criticisms of the numbers. It turns out the numbers were right, but I had read them correctly. Wind speed is in knots, not miles per hour. There’s a big difference!
When possible, find others who can collaborate. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The data viz community is global. Get online. Find a partner who can collaborate. Share what you learn 🤓