Tag Archives: data visualisation

18 Sep

Anatomy of an Infographic: CATH project flow diagram

This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions. 


INTRO: Yes, it’s busy and overwhelming but I love this piece I designed in 2014 for a collaborative arts project in Birmingham.

BACKGROUND: The project, headed up by a team from University of Birmingham, saw 3 types of organisations come together into smaller project groups to essentially ‘see what they could come up with”. Academics would bring a research capability, SME’s would perhaps offer technical services or design skills and SCOs (Small cultural organisations) would bring cultural awareness and challenges.

BRIEF: my brief was to create a diagram that truly captured the complexity and challenges faced by the project and to give a feeling of chaos moving into organisation.

THE DATA: I was given a Word document table, with a row for each group with the name of each SCO, SME and Higher Education representative in that group.

THE PROCESS

  • Expand the data: The data was a useful starting point but I felt there was more interesting data to be uncovered by getting more specific. By drilling down into each individual participant, I uncovered more data and develop a hierarchy / categorisation of everyone involved. So a lecturer from Birmingham University was given a more specific categorisation based on his specialism – e.g. Humanities > History. SME’s and SCO’s were similarly broken down into more specific sub-categories.
  • Structure the data: Whilst I had added new layers to the information, I also had limited space in which to present it, so I had to go through a round of merging and rethinking in order to create some smaller groupings. I also wanted to get data-sign-off before starting the design stage, as it would be much harder to change later on. I used a wireframing app (e.g. Draw.io or xDiagram (mac)) to create a basic flow chart which the client could easily understand. It was also important for each participant to approve their categorisation – this was to be a permanent record of the project and we needed buy-in from everyone involved. These basic wireframes of each sector were sent to the relevant participants for their comment. As you can imagine there were some changes with some valuable feedback and suggestions. By the end of this process I had a spreadsheet with each participant on a different row, with maximum 4 layers of detail for each one, plus their outcome project title.
  • Create the basic diagram:  I used RAW (http://rawgraphs.io/) to create a basic alluvial diagram. Whilst a complete mess it was simply a starting point and once imported into Illustrator as an SVG it was incredibly useful.
  • Finalise the diagram: At this point I realised that the left hand side of the chart required a more hand-drawn approach, whilst the right could rely more heavily on the output from RAW. This had the additional benefit of capturing another element of the project. The tree-branch feel on the left represented the human, natural unstructured growth of the participants, but when pulled together they produce a more digital, structured outcome. I spend considerable time in Illustrator developing the left and side of the chart in order to distribute the ‘chaos’ and ‘twists’ evenly, but also aid comprehension.

 

 

10 Nov

Need a Tableau dashboard? Here’s the information I need

This post discussed my use of Tableau Software. For more information on Tableau visit the official website

Tableau logo
I’ve always used Tableau to quickly get to grips with a new data set and play with different chart types until I come across something effective. I’ve also created several ‘personal’ projects using this tool.

More recently, I’ve been talking to several clients about creating Tableau dashboards or interactive infographics for them.

These are the questions I ask myself / them at the start of any new Tableau project, on top of the usual design questions (which may form another blog post at some point)

Feedback / thoughts welcome via Twitter.

 

CURRENT USE

  • Do you currently use Tableau?
  • Do you use dashboards and / or storyboards?
  • What version of Tableau do you use – Public, Desktop, Server etc
  • Is Tableau part of your usual workflow, or something you use for standalone projects
  • Is there one person who uses Tableau in your organisation, or are most people skilled in Tableau?
  • Do you use Tableau to generate your calculations, or is the bulk of the statistical work done in the original dataset?
  • Can you share files, links or screenshots of how you currently use Tableau?

 

THIS PROJECT (what we are creating)

  • What are your aims for this project? (i.e. “to create a dashboard to let our staff see our monthly statistics”)
  • Is there a particular challenge/problem your are looking to solve?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • is the dashboard just for internal use?
  • What do you envisage to be the final outcome of this project? – i.e. a single dashboard, multiple dashboards (story), a single visualisation, an interactive infographic

 

VIEWING THE PROJECT

  • do you want the project to be viewable online by anyone?
  • will the project need some explanation/wider context?
  • will the project need some instructions or will all your users be familiar with Tableau?

 

THE DATA

  • is the data for this project part of a larger data set already existing in Tableau or are we starting from scratch?
  • is the data ready to go, or does it need more work to get it into shape?
  • is the data already public?
  • is it ok for the data to be accessible/downloaded by anyone who accesses the project?

 

THE DESIGN

  • is it important for this project to meet corporate branding guidelines?
  • does this need to be suitable for mobile use?
15 Jan

If you needed any more proof that I am a data visualisation and productivity nerd …

In order to keep track of the various projects, I use an Excel spreadsheet. This calculates project hours, rates etc.

The spreadsheet breaks each day down into 30 minute blocks, into which I paste a coloured block and code – which helps calculate the running totals.

As well as being useful – it also generated this bonus visualisation!

I started this in Oct 2013 – So now, I present, my work diary from Oct 2013 – Dec 2014.

 

2014 work viz-01

15 Apr

Appearing soon at …

I’ve had a flurry of invitations to speak in public recently and, as one of my New Years Resolutions was to say ‘yes’ more, I’ve agreed to all of them.

Over the next 2 months I’ll be appearing at the following events – ticket details below, and if you’re already going, do say hi!

 

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April CAKE Morning

  • Date: April 29th 2014
  • Venue:  Digital Humanities Hub, University of Birmingham, Pritchatts Road, Edgbaston, B15 2TT
  • Talk subject: tbc
  • Tickets: free available here
  • Other speakers: tbc

Official Blurb

Given the wide and diverse range of academics, businesses, students and Heritage organisations working collaboratively on the DHD project, we will be hosting free monthly “cake” (Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange) mornings to showcase current developments, discuss funding opportunities and tackle current challenges. Plus – there will be cake!

Personal Aims

I went to CAKE for the first time in March, and found it a really interesting event, although I didn’t stick around to properly meet many new people! Thankfully I’ve been invited to speak at the April event, and will make a concerted effort to mingle, and hopefully attract some collaborations and new projects.

The focus of my presentation will be cultural examples of data visualisation and info-visualisation – with a focus on historical and cultural examples!

 

science-capital-logo

Science Capital – Digital World Meeting:Doing Business with Data

Official Blurb

Big data. Open data. The potential for creating innovative businesses seems limitless. Our communities are looking for useful solutions to complex issues such as mass transit flow, better health systems and effective portals that help us work in new ways.

The Digital World speakers will show how big and open data can be used by individuals and by companies looking to grow. The event is open to all: to those who create, visualise and analyse our data universe; to those seeking new business ideas or research; to those who rebel as well as revel in the opportunities big data brings.

Personal Aims

I’m thinking of focusing my talk on past, present and future of data visualisation – harking back to some of the ‘classics’, to what’s being done today and ideas for the future. I’d really like to present an interesting insight into the world of data design – with some historical context, real world examples and advice for companies looking to explore this avenue.

It would also be great to make some new contacts, and there is a chance to network at the event, so I won’t forget to pack my business cards!

 

Print

 

 

Creating Usable Content

  • Date: May 12th 2014
  • Venue: SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff
  • Workshop: Creating Infographics (50 minutes repeated 3 times during the day)
  • Tickets:  here
  • Other speakers: Dan Slee (@comms2point0) Steve Davies (@filmcafe_steve) and more tbc

Official Blurb

The way we communicate has changed. How can we improve the way we engage with colleagues, stakeholders and the public?
The Creating Useable Content Learning Event is a day of high-tempo workshops that will equip you with the skills to tell your story in a way that attracts attention and triggers conversations.
During the day you’ll discover the benefit of other people sharing your content and spreading your message for you.
With a practical, hands-on emphasis, each of the five workshops will give you the opportunity to begin creating useable content right there and then!

Personal Aims

This sounds like a great event – delegates will rotate round a series of 50 minute workshops using useful introductory skills like social media management, writing blogs and using photography to promote.

It will be great to develop a quick version of my infographics designing course and, of course, meet lots of new organisations who may benefit from my design services!

21 Feb

Information Designer for Hire: what to expect

Whilst organisations may have had experience working with graphics or branding designers in the past, the process to develop an infographic is very different.

screenshot

 

Ask any graphics designer who’s been asked to convert a 20 page report into an image, and chances are they’ll tell you that designing an infographic requires a whole new set of skills. I think of myself as a designer-meets-journalist-meets-number cruncher – as the content needs editing, selecting and crafting, and *then* designing.

Your input is vital to the success of the project – you know what you want and you know your industry – it’s up to you to point out the important information and decide on your message.

Here is a run down of the process structure I use:

[toc]

Initial Decision

So you’ve decided your company needs an infographic.

You may have a strong idea of what needs communicating (ie you’re end of year finances, a new process or a summary of your work) or you may have simply heard the word, and feel you should get on board.

Knowing what you want communicating (the concept as opposed to the specific content) is important and will save you time . It’s also worth thinking about a few key things, as they will be useful to know at the start of the process:

  • what are you trying to communicate? You can read more about this here
  • who is your audience? age, knowledge, gender, nationality
  • is this for online, print or both?
  • what is your deadline?
  • what is your budget?
  • do you have the information, or do you want me to source it?

You will be asked more questions as the process goes on but these are a good starting point.

Initial Contact

Normally via email or social media asking about prices and timescale

Much of my work comes in via email, Twitter or Linkedin – with a client contacting me with a tentative query about costings. It’s such a new area of design that the pricing structure is an unknown – and few designers (including myself) put prices on their websites. (This is because every job is different. Pricing is based on final output, amount of research required and how quickly you need it).

I’m usually happy to give a ballpark figure but always ask for more information before giving an official quote.

Many designers quote by the hour – I quote per job. I find this puts everyone at ease (including myself). Of course, I have contingency plans in place if the project spirals out of control through changes by the client – but these are explained fully with my initial quote.

I’ll give a full and detailed price quote once we have completed the next stage, the initial discussion.

First Discussion

An opportunity for us to set out initial ideas, and discuss the project in great depth

Your initial conversation with your infographic designer is key. It may be held face to face (my preference) or over the telephone. It’s your time to explain what you want, or be honest and say you don’t really know *what* you want. Make sure you have as much information as possible to hand.

Treat it like a first date – find out as much as you can about each other, the process and how each other works. From this you can decide if working together is right for you.

I may do some rough sketching (on an iPad) whilst we are talking, so we can make sure we understand each other.

Full Quote

 

Once I have a better understanding of the job, and we have worked out the basic aims and objectives, I will send over a final quote, before starting any work. You will be asked to sign a New Job Agreement form, which quotes the price and details of what the quote does (and doesn’t) include.

Depending on the size of the job/length of time it will take, I sometimes ask for 30% or 50% upfront.

First Drafts

A series of draft ideas to show you some options of layout and theme/styling

One we’ve had the initial discussions I’ll spend up to a week (depending on the amount of work you want) developing a series of options. Here I’ll be exploring 2 areas:

  • content layout
  • styling  / theme / concept

I will usually send 2/3 very different images (by PDF or image file), each one showing a different layout and theme, but you can mix and match if you prefer. Of course, you also have the option to scrap all 3 options, and offer feedback or guidance as to why you don’t feel they’re right.

These will not be fully completed images (the themes often develop over time) so I’d ask you to be prepared for some changes in the future and any temporary placeholder content in the image.

One you’ve selected a content layout and theme I will start work on the final image.

Work In Progress

An opportunity for you to see a part-completed image, and make sure you’re happy with the direction

As I said above, this is a collaboration, so I will be checking in with you as I design the final image. This could be for several reasons:

  • if I shift dramatically from the original image
  • if I want to confirm you are still happy with image
  • to avoid the disappointment of you not liking the final image

I may send whole images, or part of images to make sure you’re happy.

Final Proof Image

The final image – before spell-check and final tweaks, for you to approve

Once I’ve worked up a final image I sent it over for you to review. This image may still have typos, spelling errors and require more precise tweaking, but I always leave these until you are is 100% happy with the image (no point pixel-checking content that may change!)

You will then be asked to confirm the content, make any final changes (if major changes it will lead to further charges) and run it past their team (if necessary).

Proof-reading / final tweaks

I employ a proof reader to check final images in terms of spelling mistakes, statistics and grammar issues. If you stare at an image for so long, it’s easy for errors to slip through the net. I also ask you/your team to check the final information as well – the more eyes the better.

Once I’ve made any changes I will tidy the image up, make sure everything is aligned etc and prepare a final files for you (depending on their requirements)

Final Image

Final image is sent over and once you have given it the final OK, I will invoice for the full/balance amount.

 


All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020