Michael: Hello Martin. I love the cartoons you post on
Twitter. Can you tell my readers a little bit about The 100 Day Project?
Martin: Hi Michael. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the compliment. That I am doing the project was a bit of an accident. I sketched cartoons for an article Alli Torban (@AlliTorban) worked on. After seeing early drafts she encouraged me to try it. It’s been challenging at first to post a cartoon every day. But feedback has been great and I am starting to get the hang of it. By the way the article was later featured on the Tableau.com page. Here is a link to it: https://www.tableau.com/about/blog/2019/5/critiquing-data-visualizations-channel-empathy-and-be-productive
Michael: In you post on Medium.com, Topics in Dataviz: A Primer for Getting Started, you state:
Know thy data …. and own the story you can tell with it.
Data is the material we have at our
disposal. Knowing the data is a vital part of determining which story you can
tell. A good question to ask yourself is whether you know the system the data
describes well enough to detect odd trends or errors.
Martin: Sure thing. There is this saying that data is the new oil, and I kind of agree with that, but then again it’s not really oil. You can turn oil into a lot of things, if you know the chemistry, but data will only let you do so much. On the other end of that of course is “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything” from How to Lie with Statistics.
Data is the new oil.
If you got into Dataviz to communicate insights, you don’t want to go there. The funny thing about the Dataviz community is that we are all amateurs. So people are very open to helping each other out, because we all started somewhere else. If you need help with data that you don’t know enough about, the best you can do is ask somebody that may know more about it then you.
If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.
How to Lie with Statistics
Michael: In your post on towardsdatascience.com, Data Visualization Sketch — US Supreme Court, you discuss the process you followed to create the data visualization for this. Can you discuss your typical process in creating a data visualization in some detail for my readers?
Martin: Ah yessss. Looking back I am a bit embarrassed about these early posts. I would say my process was pretty decent but my technique wasn’t very good. When I did these plots I had almost a week of d3.js under my belt and had only heard about observablehq.com
But everything considered they turned out OK. I would say I usually approach a visualization from one of two directions. Data or Story. The first is usually more fun. You get to see what is in the data and see what works and what won’t. The second is a bit of a scavenger hunt and jigsaw thing.
What is central to both
approaches for me is sketching. When I have a pen in my hand the work feels
more real, less abstract. I grew up in a house filled with sketches in the
design thinking style my Dad made when he worked on a project. I am glad some
of that rubbed of on me.
I would say after that it’s all
about figuring out which step feels right. Sometimes I go into color and then
to metaphor encoding, or start with lettering. As funny as it sounds sometimes the
data tells you want you should do next.
Michael: I am curious, what is
your day job?
Martin: I am involved in the Human Brain Project, one of the European Flagship programs. It’s an interesting place. Like Dataviz it is very interdisciplinary and a great place to grow. I started out as a neuroscientist. I did a tour or two in Neuroinformatics and data curation, then ended up in Project Management. My team and I are focusing on quantitative quality control. Which is a fun challenge in itself. But when you add research and infrastructure building on top it adds a couple of twists and turns.
Michael: What is next on your
“To Do” list? What can the data visualization community expect to see from you
in the near future?
Martin: To be honest, I am not sure. I have spending the last 3 months in Data Visualization Society slack channels. I am still trying to cope with the experience of having every aspect of Dataviz a channel away. I started collaborations with people I always wanted to work with. Some of this takes time to gel, but I see first signs of some maturing from project sketches to something to lean on. I’d say expect me to continue to take on more than I should, and pull off something neat every now and then.
Here are a few of Martin’s
The 100 Day Project Posts
It happened again this week. I have internal business partners who are eager to move from tools like Excel, Power BI, and SSRS to Tableau Desktop. But, again, I would have a hard time doing so because the functionality they need is not currently natively supported by your product.
What they want is the ability to create a text (or grid) report in Tableau (interactive or exported) that has headers and footers including page numbers (e.g., Page 1 of 12), page breaks before or after a particular subsection (or collapsible subsections interactively), dynamically show the name of the dimension in the sub-total or grand total row name (e.g., Budget & Finance Department Total), and also be able to print this report pixel-perfect as a PDF.
And I need to be able to do this seamlessly as part of the functionality of the product!
This is not something new I am bringing up. If you do a Google search on “Tableau page break on subsections,” you will see dozens of people trying to find the Holy Grail answer of how to do this in Tableau. These questions have been floating around the Tableau community for over 6 years! Many people over the years have offered workarounds that kinda help, but don’t really completely solve this problem. There are many different Ideas that have been opened on the Tableau Forum. Some date back to version 7.0 of Tableau Desktop.
I know a lot of Tableau purists may argue that we should just use Excel or SSRS to do what I am asking, but that really does not solve the issue. Many of us have been chosen to champion Tableau in our business community. Telling our business partners to go use another tool does not help us bring people into our internal Tableau communities. For you folks that sell Tableau Desktop licenses and consulting services for a living, this is a great opportunity for you to increase the number of licenses and consulting engagements you sell. If this capability existed today, I could increase the number of licenses we have purchased internally fourfold.
In the interim, I have been doing all kinds of tricks and gyrations to have Tableau create business reports such as Financial Reports, Budget Reports, Procurement Reports, etc. Some of these gyrations include creating the report sections in Tableau, and then merging them together, adding page numbers and other information in the footers, etc. using Adobe Acrobat. I should not have to use two tools to achieve what was something I was able to do simply in my old MicroStrategy and Cognos days in one tool.
I realize your focus is great data visualization, data mining, and the ability to do deeper analytics. But, until I can bring people into the Tableau fold first, I cannot do this. I realize bringing in these non-data visualization features goes against the grain of what Tableau’s primary mission is. But, you faced controversy before when you incorporated pie charts into version 9.0 of Tableau Desktop. Granted many people were critical of you doing this (see Stephen Few review of Tableau Desktop v9.0), but it turned out for the best, it probably brought in clients you might have not been able to otherwise, and people have even used pie charts as marks on their spatial maps.
I have discussed this with other leaders in large Fortune 100 companies. They have these same pain points in their organizations too. They say the same thing I say: If I was able to get their current Excel, SSRS, Power BI reports over into Tableau, then I would be able to begin showing them the benefits of using data visualizations for interactive dashboards, infographics, data mining, trend analysis, year-over-year growth, etc. But, if I cannot bring them over to Tableau, I am stuck. They end up creating key business reports in Excel to show senior leadership. When budget time rolls around and I ask for additional money to purchase more Tableau licenses, they say, “Well, it looks like you are doing fine using Excel. And Tableau does not support some of the functionality needed. Why do you need to buy more Tableau licenses?”
So, the ball is in your court. You are leaving many of us behind, who are loyal diehard believers in Tableau, who could otherwise be growing our Tableau initiatives with a few additions to the product. Not every organization needs to create beautiful data visualizations from day one. We need to be able to crawl before we can walk. But once we can walk, baby, we will really start running.
Please help us, Tableau Software. You are our only hope.
Artist/Painter, Logo/Poster Designer, Optimist, Pragmatist, Nature admirer, loves to cook, experiment science and listening to music.
In Professional life, I am working as a Senior Consultant with Beinex, India. I always had a passion about Data Visualization, where one was able to explain a concept by means of visuals which makes it easier for the audience to understand about that particular concept. (It doesn’t matter whether they have already aware of the concept or not)
I started my career in an IT organisation, where I got a
chance to learn Tableau. Then, I realized the power of Tableau in Data
Visualisation. I tried to explore more about the Tableau by creating different
types of charts (sankey, waffle, network charts), etc.
I frequently participate in #MakeoverMonday Project by Andy Kriebel (@VizWizBI) and Eva Murray (@TriMyData) which
helps me to shape up my data analysis and data vizualisation skills. (I was lucky enough to get a swag (water bottle)
from #MoM for 1000th submission, which gave me a lifetime memento) https://twitter.com/VizWizBI/status/1090659140765208576
I just always wanted to explore my design and artistic skills with data visualization and it worked out most of the time. Also, I get constant support and appreciation from the Tableau Community which really cheered me to do more and more. I want to take this chance to thank #Datafam who supports me all the time.
Michael: Hello Pradeep. You recently posted your IronViz 2019 submission on Tableau Public. It is titled U.S. Farms and Farmers Under Threat.
Can you tell my
readers the process you went through to develop this data visualization? For
example, how you gathered and prepped the data, created the design, and
translated that into Tableau?
Pradeep: I still remember the time when I was doing my first Iron Viz 2018 (Water Feeder). That time I was absolutely new to Tableau and I just thought of giving it a try. I just downloaded the data from public government site and created visualization about Monsoon patterns in India
Luckily, I made it to the Top
10 (7th position) and also, I got feedback (from
judges) mail which helped me to correct my mistakes regarding design, analysis
Since then, I was badly waiting for #IronViz 2019 to participate. I was happy to see the topic is about ‘Agriculture’, but I was a little bit worried to know that we have to use only the provided dataset by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I have just gone through the dataset, it was huge and confusing at the same time. I have decided that, however complex the data may be, I don’t wanna give up for that reason.
Instead, it gave me a motivation to participate. Then
I just took a while to understand the given data. I thought of concentrating on
5 major challenges from the given dataset. Then I selected those particular
measures and ignored the other ones. (I
used Excel for data preparation)
I wanted to create a simple but effective design.
My only aim was to highlight those 5 challenges in a simple way that anyone who
sees the viz could understand it at ease. I added some key points and visuals (waffle,
donut charts) beside each challenge which would make the audience to relate them
with the problems. I have used 5 color codes (magenta, blue, green, orange and
purple); each color for each problem that would help audience to have a clear
and separated view on each problem. At the bottom, I have added “What can we
do?” part giving my suggestions to overcome from the mentioned challenges.
I always remember the feedback (Iron Viz 2018) in my mind, and I have implemented them in this year’s #IronViz submission. Also, I wanna thank the Flerlage brothers (Kevin Flerlage @FlerlageKev and Ken Flerlage @flerlagekr) who have helped me a lot by giving me constant feedback and support which shaped my viz into a wonderful one.
Michael: You are a Senior Consultant
at Beinex. Can you talk a
little about how you can help businesses in their data visualization needs
Pradeep: I have recently joined Beinex as a Senior Consultant and I feel really great working with Beinex team to help people understand data.
We emphasize on self-service analytics. We take
business users on an adoption journey to ensure they know how easy it is to
conduct analytics using Tableau. We focus on understanding the requirements of
the business, creating multiple prototypes and suggesting industry best
practices with respect to KPI measurement and visualization techniques.
We have techno-functional Consultants in the team who
have industry experience to guide clients in achieving their analytics
objectives. At Beinex, I have got opportunity to work with client C-suite level
directly and see how data visualization solutions helping them to solve many
Michael: Can you tell us three of your favorite Tableau Desktop tips and tricks?
“No Polygons” by Kevin Flerlage (@FlerlageKev) was one of my favorite
Inspired by his work, I have tried
creating my version of “Four Leaf Clover Chart”
following the same technique.
2. “Color Theming in Tableau” by Ken Flerlage (@flerlagekr)
by his work, I have come up achieving the same trick using single sheet and
parameter in my viz “Elevated Measles Risk”, a #ProjectHealthViz (Topic- Measles) by Lindsay Betzendahl (@ZenDollData)
Michael: Back in December of last year,
you published a data visualization titled How Americans plan to quit smoking in 2019?
I think the use of burning cigarettes (including the ash) as your horizontal
bars is very creative. Can you tell my readers how you created the cigarette
Yes, I still remember the time when I have created the viz related to smoking
issue. Last December 2018, I have read an article in Insider.com
Americans plan to quit smoking in 2019?”. This topic really attracted me and I just wanted to convey this topic
in an interesting way using Tableau. So, I decided to use cigarettes as bars.
was really fun creating this viz and it was simple to create, as well. As most
of the tableau people knows that we can add an image/shape at the end of the
bar using dual axis. I used the same trick. I made white horizontal bar chart
and added cigarette ash (shape) at the end of each bar. I created the ‘cigar
end’ (shape) for bars in a separate sheet and then I just placed both the
sheets side by side inside a container
a cigarette bar has three parts (Cigar end, horizontal white bar and ash
I also used transparent sheet trick, background image, added info about “Reasons to Quit Smoking” which would add more flavor to the overall viz.
In Professional life, I am Health Economist PhD, Health Systems Researcher.
Quit Academia Career after 15 years.
I have a passion of data visualization and keen to improve healthcare through the power of analytics. I am a highly qualified researcher with proven analytical and communication skills who found true passion in creative and logical problem solving by using data. In my work as a health economist I have extensive experience working multiple databases. My research interests cover: – health care systems performance (financing, resources allocation, equity, efficiency), – complexity of health systems, – public and private sector in healthcare, – cost of illness studies.
Michael: Hello Anna.
On Tableau Public, your recently posted your IronViz entry, Coal
Plants Make Europe Sick.
Can you tell my readers the process you went through to develop this data visualization? For example, how you gathered and prepped the data, created the design, and translated that into Tableau?
Anna: My goal for this year was to submit a feeder for IronViz Contest. When I first saw the contest topic Energy & Sustainability a few ideas popped up in my head. I knew from the very beginning that I want to connect somehow this topic with healthcare data. After quick research I found this fantastic Report and database prepared by Europe Beyond Coal organization (https://beyond-coal.eu/). I decided to create an interactive dashboard showing off the damaging impact of coal plants on our health. I used Tableau Prep for data cleansing. The goal was to keep it simple both in charts and colours, so I have chosen interactive map, bar charts and scatterplots. For colours it was just white, grey, black and orange to put more emphasize on the key facts. To make dashboard more interactive I was motivated to learn set actions from Lindsay Poulter blog (http://www.lindseypoulter.com/). My dashboard consists of three main parts: (1) Background and Context: with interactive map and some information about coal plants in Europe; (2) Analysis: a few metrics showing the impact of each coal plant on health (3) Recommendations: what should be done on plants and governments level to reduce the damaging impact of health. I wasn’t sure whether the dashboard meets IronViz criteria, so I asked Sarah Bartlett (@sarahlovesdata) and Lindsay Betzendahl (@ZenDollData) for their opinions. They provided me with a great feedback and encouraged to publish it and submit it. I was really excited to see my viz in the Top 3 Europe Iron Viz submissions as I would never expect it.
Michael: You are a Research and Data Visualization (Tableau) Freelance Consultant primarily working remotely. Can you talk a little about how you can help businesses in their data visualization needs using Tableau?
Anna: Hahaha! Yes, this is the information that I have put on my Linkedin Profile. Nevertheless, the fact is that I am currently on my annual maternity leave. I decided to make most of this this time to learn some new skills, that would help me to boost my career and ultimately change its path. Once my Tableau Public Profile became more attractive, I immediately started to receive multiple job offers within data viz field. Since working remotely was my only option I included this information within my Linkedin Profile. This part of my professional experience is mainly providing feedback to other Tableau users on created dashboards and help to learn data viz. All this contribution together with new data viz skills helped me to get a new job as Health System Researcher. I start my new assignment in July right after my maternity leave. I am very excited leaving Academia career after almost 15 years and looking forward to working in totally different environment.
Michael: Can you tell us three of your favourite
Tableau Desktop tips and tricks?
Michael: Back in January, you had the
VOTD and VOTW for your Chain of Death in Connecticut data
visualization. Can you tell us your thoughts on how we can help reduce the
number of drug overdose-related deaths, and specifically, the opioid epidemic?
Anna: It was really difficult and challenging dataset as it was dedicated to my younger brother Peter, I lost three years ago. The problem of opioids is very complicated and multi-dimensional. We see the problem is growing and more and more young people is losing their life. It’s a tragedy for their families and friends. As community we should use impactful dashboards to inform society about problem of opioids and depression. The magnitude, severity, and chronic nature of the opioid epidemic is of serious concern to clinicians, the government, the general public, and many others. Some time ago I read article about rising trend of opioid prescriptions and clinicians acting like “drug dealers” (https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2019/04/17/opioid-pain-pill-federal-prescription-bust/3482202002/) In my opinion, we should take further steps to reduce access to opioids.
Michael: If you could magically be alone in a room with Francois Ajenstat, what would you ask him to add into Tableau Desktop?
Anna: Tableau Desktop is such fantastic
tool with so many possibilities which I am still learning. If there would be
anything that I could add or change it would probably be dashboard formatting,
which is very time consuming for me. It would be great to have copy paste
options for annotations, text boxes, divider lines
Michael: What is next on your “To Do”
list? What can the Tableau community expect to see from you in the near future?
Anna: In June I will be on the big Stage of the European IronViz so this is my next big challenge. After the contest I plan to engage even more in Tableau User Groups starting from Warsaw TUG and HealthTUG
I still want to take active part in Tableau Community challenges, especially #ProjectHealthViz, #IronQuest and #MakeoverMonday. I plan to pass my DQA Exam by the end of the year.
If you have a data analytics or data visualization blog and don’t see it included in my list, please drop me an e-mail at email@example.com and provide me your name, site name, site link and RSS Feed (if you have one). I will add you to the list.
I wanted to share an interesting data visualization experiment that Susie Lu is doing in her spare time for fun.
a Senior Data Visualization Engineer with Netflix. She has been doing some data
visualization prototypes with grocery receipts.
grocery receipts are made with thermal printing; no ink is used. The prototypes
were created by connecting a printer via USB to her computer. The printing
thermal print design created by Sam Saccone.
are some screenshots of some of her prototype testing.
I think Susie’s experiment is very creative and something for all of us to think about in how we can visualize common things like grocery receipts.
For much of my career, I have had to travel to New York City (NYC) every few months. I always found NYC to be fascinating in that it is always awake, humming, and vibrant. Also, NYC has some of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
There are over 6,000 high-rise buildings in NYC, 274 of which are skyscrapers standing over 492 ft (150 m) tall. NYC is number two globally for such tall buildings, only behind Hong Kong.
Flatiron Building, New York City
For a period of time, when I worked in New York, I worked in The Empire State Building. Taking a break and having a cup of coffee, I was able to look out the window and see all the way to the new World Trade Center tower. Back when I worked for American Express, our building housed a historical timeline and narrative of what tragically happened on 9/11. There was an observation window for many years where visitors could watch as they carefully sorted through the rubble of the previous Twin Towers.
Empire State Building, New York City
The infographic I am showcasing today is from Liberty Cruise, and it shows the tallest buildings in New York City.
To help you put things in perspective, here is a list, and individual profiles, of the current top ten:
One World Trade Center
1,776 feet (541 m)
432 Park Avenue
1,396 feet (426 m)
30 Hudson Yards
1,268 feet (387 m)
Empire State Building
1,250 feet (381 m)
Bank of America Tower
1,200 feet (366 m)
3 World Trade Center
1,079 feet (329 m)
1,050 feet (320 m)
1,046 feet (319 m)
The New York Times Building
1,046 feet (319 m)
35 Hudson Yards
1,009 feet (308 m)
Two of my favorite buildings, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, were erected during the Great Depression and still crack the top ten list today.
The Chrysler Building was the first skyscraper ever to be built at a height exceeding 1,000 feet. Meanwhile, the Empire State building, which was finished one year later, was the “world’s tallest building” for nearly 40 years.
However, as you review this list, you will see than the rest of the buildings in the top ten were built more recently. It’s a testament to how fast the skyline of New York City has changed even in the last decade.
Towers in the Pipeline
But that’s not all, because the skyscraper boom in NYC hasn’t ended yet. The following megatowers are closing in on completion, and will displace many at the top of the current list:
111 West 57th Street This building is set to be operational in mid-2019, and it’s already very noticeable on the NYC skyline. With a height of 1,428 feet (435 m), it will be the “skinniest” skyscraper in the world when completed, with a width-to-height ratio of 1:23.
Central Park Tower This building, which was designed by the same people who did the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, will be the tallest building in the country by roof-height when done in 2020. It will clock in at 1,550 feet (472 m), making it the most sky-high residential building in the world.
45 Broad Street With a height of 1,200 feet (366 m), this new building in Lower Manhattan is expected to be completed by 2021. If it were finished today, it would tie the Bank of America Tower for the fifth spot on a list of tallest buildings in the city.
One Vanderbilt This massive building will be the fourth tallest in the city when completed in 2021. Standing at 1,401 feet (427 m), it will have a highly anticipated observation deck set 1,000 feet above the ground.
Want to visualize more data about the Big Apple?
Check out this animation, on VisualCapitalist.com, which shows the population pulse of a Manhattan workday.
Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in five of the Star Wars movies, passed away last week.
I was fortunate to have had Peter as a guest at a Star Wars convention that I hosted back in 1997. I also was able to catch up with Peter at various toy and comic conventions over the years. He was always very gracious, witty, and personable to all fans who approached him.
Peter gave life to Chewbacca. I cannot think of anyone who could have portrayed Chewbacca in the way Peter did.
I hope these rare photos of Peter make you smile and think fondly of him.
RIP, Peter. May the Force be with you!
[NOTE: Below is a previous post I made from December 18, 2017.]
Last year, I was cleaning out our garage; something I had promised my wife I would do for many years. As fortune would have it, I stumbled upon a group of long-lost photos from our Arizona Star Warz Convention from 1997 (now 20 years ago).
Most folks are not aware that I hosted and promoted the Arizona Star Warz Convention (AZSWCON) on Halloween weekend of 1997. We had many people associated with the Star Wars movies in attendance, including the “Men Behind the Masks.”
Our convention was a per-cursor to all of the Lucas-sponsored Star Wars conventions and was the largest of its kind in the World back then. We had thousands of people attend. In fact, we had Lucasfilm’s PR guy in attendance and as a presenter.
I wanted to do something unique with the Star Wars actors in attendance, so I booked a photo shoot at our old western town, Rawhide, located in Northwest Scottsdale. I had the Star Wars actors come out a few days early for us to do some fun photos with them all dressed up in cowboy gear. We had a local, very popular and excellent photographer (Hassan Photography) take the photos.
With the release of Star Wars VIII – The Last Jedi last week, I thought this would be a great time to share these photos with you.
Below each photo is a list of who is in that photo. I remember we all laughed and had a lot of fun doing this.
I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do.
May the Force be with you!
(Photo Left): The old Rawhide sign off Scottsdale Road.
Above: The convention poster. Boy, did we have a great group of people in attendance to represent the Star Wars movies.
Above: (Left to Right): Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), David Prowse (Darth Vader), John Hollis (Lobot, Lando’s Aide), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), Cinthia Freeling (Princess Anne-Droid, Hardware Wars (1978)), Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen).
You don’t want to get into a gunfight with this crowd.
Above: Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) a bit over a barrel.
Above: (Standing Left): Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Cinthia Freeling (Princess Anne-Droid, Hardware Wars (1978)), (On Stairs): Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma), (In Wagon): Kenny Baker (R2-D2), (On Right): Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), John Hollis (Lobot, Lando’s Aide).
Well, I guess we can mosey over to the cantina.
Above: (Sitting Left): Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), (Standing Left): Kenny Baker (R2-D2), (In Jail): John Hollis (Lobot, Lando’s Aide), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), (In Doorway): David Prowse (Darth Vader), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), (Sitting, Stretched Out): Cinthia Freeling (Princess Anne-Droid, Hardware Wars (1978)), (Standing Right): Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca).
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.
Above: (Left to Right): Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), Cinthia Freeling (Princess Anne-Droid, Hardware Wars (1978)), Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma).
Michael “shoots” while Cinthia and Caroline shoot back!
(Standing Left to Right): Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Kenny Baker (R2-D2).
Born, raised and currently residing in Belgium; Marian went to culinary school but changed careers when she got her first job in IT support. She’s held several operational roles in Customer Service since then (customer advocate, process specialist, team leader, global process leader); and until recently she was supporting the different teams around the globe by providing intelligence on performance levels and maintaining the organisation’s dashboards in Tableau. Her journey into data visualization and specifically Tableau was an ‘accidental’ one but her interest and fascination with how we visualize information to tell a better story has always been there.
After having attended her first Tableau Conference in London in 2018 she became active in the online community through initiatives like #MakeoverMonday which allowed her to further develop her skills and take the lessons learnt back to work. She recently obtained her first Tableau Certification and is currently working towards taking the Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate (DQA) exam.
Outside of work
Marian enjoys going on culinary adventures and exploring different corners of
the world through the lens of her camera.
Michael: Hello Marian. On Tableau Public, your dataviz for DESI: Digital Economy & Society Index was recently selected as Viz of the Day (VOTD).
Can you tell my
readers the process you went through to develop this data visualization? For
example, how you gathered and prepped the data, created the design, and
translated that into Tableau.
Marian: My ‘DESI’ was actually a late submission for MakeoverMonday. We’d been having some interesting conversations at work on our own “digital readiness“ and when I saw the dataset come out; I knew I had to create something with it and that I wanted to take my time.
I should mention that part of the design was
very much inspired by Erik
Rettman’s viz. It started with me
wanting to see if I could replicate what he had created, and all the other
pieces fell into place as I started building it out in Tableau. I wanted to add
some additional context to help people understand what they were viewing. If
you’re going to create an exploratory viz, I believe it’s important to provide
just the right amount of information (not too much) to help people frame up the
data. So I put in a few additional elements like how the score is calculated
and a short explanation of the different dimensions.
Inspiration for me is something infinite. I
usually get too many ideas then I know what to do with; for this project
however the choice of colours was immediate. I wanted it to be ‘themed’ in
using blue for the EU and yellow for the different member countries but the
colours didn’t really pop on a white background, so I went with a very dark
grey to really make them stand out and draw folks in. The choice of background
meant that I didn’t have too many options to fill in the lines/bars so I went
with a lighter shade of the background colour so you could still see the ‘part
of whole’ but without taking away from the highlights which were meant to be
the focus. You’ll see that all other text is white except for any mention of
the EU or the different countries which was very much a deliberate choice.
With regards to the data-prep, I had some
challenges with using calculations to add the rankings to the individual DESI dimensions,
so I went back and added them to the data-source rather than using
calculations. There are probably better ways to do it but that’s what I went
with at the time.
One of the best reactions I received from folks after having received VOTD was actually when a colleague reached out to me because they had seen my work shown as “Viz of The Week” when they opened Tableau Desktop and they wanted to know more about how I created it. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a blog post which will released as soon as possible.
Michael: Can you tell us a bit about how you use Tableau on a day-to-day basis in your work?
Marian: I started using Tableau a little under a year ago. We were having conversations at work about how we could operationalize our metrics more. Instead of being re-active and reviewing a table of numbers at the end of the month, the idea was to be more pro-active and start using the data to drive the performance of the teams. I did my homework on BI tools and stumbled onto Tableau. I knew at the time other departments were using it for reporting purposes, so I managed to convince my boss to send me to the Tableau Conference in London to get some training and learn what others were doing; and that’s really where my journey started.
When I look back, the very first dashboard I built (this was before I knew anything about Tableau or dataviz best practices) was just awful, but people were very excited about actually being able to see what’s happening on a daily basis which has been a real game changer. The KPI dashboards I launched have very much changed the conversations the teams are now having. Not only have they changed how we manage the ‘day-to-day’, but we also started having different conversations around making process changes to be able to better fulfill the needs of our customers.
Michael: Can you tell us three of your favourite Tableau Desktop tips and tricks?
Marian: This is always my fav question!
This is a 2-for-1 and one my favourite tips
to date. You can choose any colour for the different values straight from the
‘Edit Colors’ menu by simply clicking on the square in front of the value. And
it gets even better, you can then drag the sampled colour to your ‘Custom
Colors’ section preserving it for future use.
This is the
simplest information button you’ve ever created, and the best part is you won’t
need to mess around with custom shapes.
On the Marks Card
double-click in the blank space at the bottom
Type “i” in the blank pill
Change the mark to ‘Circle’
Change from ‘Detail’ to ‘Label’
Change the size and colour of the circle as you
see fit and adjust the font and colour of the “i” (I used Arial MT Bold in my
Something I picked up during a webinar (and
which has really helped me out several times already) is when you are working
with table calcs. Temporarily change the Mark to ‘Text’ and add totals to your
columns and rows so you can validate the calculations are giving the results
Michael: You are a regular participant in #MakeoverMonday. Can you tell my readers how participating has helped develop your Tableau skills?
Marian: I haven’t been as active as I would like to be this year, but I’m am working on getting my groove back. Last year participating in MakeoverMonday really allowed me to practice my Tableau skills and get better insights into what makes a great dataviz. And I got to meet some pretty amazing people along the way.
For me joining the community was a way to
learn from experts (for free!!) and practice, practice, practice. If you want
to become good at something you have to put in the time, and I did pretty
consistently over a period of 6 months … and it paid off. I passed my first
certification exam and was able to elevate the quality of my dashboards at work
up to a point where others started asking me to help them out with their
Michael: What makes a real Belgian Waffle great?
Marian: Not to make things too complicated but in Belgium there is actually no such thing as a ‘Belgian Waffle’. The 2 main varieties of waffles are called the ‘Liege Waffle’ and the ‘Brussels Waffle’. My favorite is the Liege Waffle and no toppings please, you don’t mess with a good thing. I have very fond memories of getting ready for boarding school on a Sunday afternoon and my mom had just baked a fresh batch for me and my brothers to take with us to school. The secret is in the dough and how well you’ve mixed in the ‘pearled’ sugar (the real thing, none of that DIY stuff please) so that it partly melt into in the dough as the waffles are baking. Don’t eat them when they come straight out of the iron, let them rest for a few minutes so the dough can set and cool off a bit.
Michael: What is next on your “To Do” list? What can the Tableau community expect to see from you in the near future?