26 Nov

Thank you to …

I know as Brits we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but it seems as good an opportunity as any to send out some THANKS of my own.

I’ve been running my own business for several years now (after a career change brought on by redundancy from my job in commercial radio) and I still have to pinch myself today when I think about all i have achieved.  Yes, I work hard, yes I’ve been savvy, but I could not have achieved what I have without the support and kindness of the people I’ve met along the way. The people named below have gone above and beyond in supporting and promoting my business in their respective worlds and in some cases, teaching me invaluable skills.

Thank you to each and every one of you.


Paul Bradshaw (Twitter)


When I left my radio gig in 2009, I immediately signed up as one of the first students at Birmingham City University‘s MA in Online Journalism. I was looking to shore up my online skills, social media, blogging etc and planned emerge the other end most likely “doing web stuff” for a radio station or newspaper.

Little did I know that I was about to be pulled into the world of data journalism – an area that would shape the job I do today.

Course leader Paul Bradshaw was (and still is) incredibly influential. Not only did he teach me some seriously handy skills and introduce me to a whole new area of journalism, he continues to recommend me for work today. Paul and I still work together today on data projects and the occasional training session. I must also give mention to the “Bradshaw Effect’  -when Paul retweets something of yours, you know about it!!!


Andy Mabbett (website)

It was Andy’s invitation to speak at Brewcamp back in 2000-and-something, that threw me headlong into the world of local government comms. I gave a brief talk about my infographics and data work, and was introduced to a handful of people who would go on to be some of my biggest clients and recommend my work to their colleagues. For the last few years local government has been one of my biggest client sectors.

Andy is always supportive and friendly, as continues to share my name throughout his network, leading to a host of new work even today. It is much appreciated!


Dan Slee and Darren Caveney (website)

Dan and Darren were two of my first clients during their time at Walsall Council. I met them at the Brewcamp event I mentioned above and immediately they approached me about some work. Both Dan and Darren have not only hired me directly, but they have pushed me in front of their significant networks and directly led to a massive amount of work.

Both Dan and Darren have been incredibly supportive, and I thank them no end of their ongoing kind words and mentions.


Pete Jackson (IEWM)

I enjoy working with Pete Jackson. His constant enthusiasm about the design work I do for IEWM is motivating and his willingness to experiment and tackle new approaches is wonderful for a designer. He’s one of life’s genuine ‘good guys’ and is always approaching me with new opportunities and ideas, which have allowed me to expand my skill set and explore new areas.


Lara Ratnaraja (Twitter)

Lara is one of those people who seems to know everyone. Incredibly well connected, and liked, Lara is a force to be reckoned with. Lara’s links with the arts /culture world, and invitations to speak at various events, has really helped me move into this area. Lara has celebrated my work and helped me forge some fantastic links in this sector. I’ve worked on several of Lara’s own projects,and her introduction to the guys at Sampad has led to a fruitful and ongoing relationship.

Which brings me to …


Sampad (website)

What can I say about Sampad? I’ve provided graphics for their annual reports for several years, but it was my work with them on the My Route project that I am the most proud. From my first conversation with Clayton Shaw, he was keen to bring me in to help develop an interactive touch table – and 2 years later, we did it!.  As the largest piece of work I have ever worked on, and a totally new area for me, My Route was a dream project, and Sampad were a dream client. They were open minded, creative and willing to experiment with new technologies. Their enthusiasm for my work is always encouraging and the opportunities they have given me have been second to done.


I could go on – there are more people who have hired, praised, supported, recommended, celebrated and promoted my work. There are also people in my personal life (my smarter and weirder other-half Danny Smith and my family) who have been unerringly supportive along the way – I cannot thank you all enough.

19 Nov

Hitting walls with a project? Going in circles? Try the Stuck Wheel

There are times in projects when you get completely stuck.

You may find yourself going in circles, with a million reasons why you can’t continue. These could be the fault of the client, overload of tasks, or a general bad feeling about how it’s all progressing.

For example you’re:

waiting for more information from someone else
not enjoying the project
struggling to understand the clients needs
overwhelmed by too many tasks
Every way you turn there is another reason NOT to progress, so nothing gets done.

This happens to me from time to time. I am often working on several projects at a time, and it can be easy to keep heading towards the easier ones than the harder ones. As a freelancer I don’t have a line manager to talk to, so this is one of those times when I need to play both roles.

That’s why I started using a Stuck Wheel.

Some of this stuff may seem really obvious, but it’s helped get me out of a stuck project many times.



You Will Need

A4 sheet of paper / large notebook

2 pens of different colours


Scannable Document 2 on 19 Nov 2015, 14_02_07

Stage 1

Write the name of the project in the centre of an A4 sheet of paper and draw a circle round it.

Then, creating a ‘spider diagram’ (and leaving space between each entry and the edge of the page) write down each of the problems you are facing with the project. All of them. They can be an insignificant or as personal as you like, no one else is going to see this. The idea is to capture all of the BLOCKS you are facing with this project. Think carefully about all the things you need to do, and why you can’t do them right now. Remember: there are no stupid entries here, so if you just hate the project, and don’t want to work on it any more, write it down. Just make sure its not the ONLY thing on your wheel!

Connect each problem to the central circle with a line.


Stage 2

Now it’s time to act like a boss for a moment.

Using the other pen, go through each of the problems and write a response to them. for example:


BLOCK: waiting for a response from client

ANSWER: email or call client for a response


BLOCK: don’t have the software i need

ANSWER: set aside some time to download and install the software


This seems pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how often these little easily solved problems can sit and fester, and halt the whole project.

However, when I do the STUCK WHEEL there are always some emotional blocks as well. The answers to these will depend on the particular project but could go as follows:


BLOCK: I’m worried XYZ will happen

ANSWER: it might. Plan for XYZ to happen by doing ABC


BLOCK: I don’t feel like doing this right now

ANSWER: (if the project is not urgent) – schedule a time to do this in the future, forget about it for now and do something else

ANSWER: (if the project is urgent) -TOUGH! you have a responsibility to your client and your business. JUST GET ON WITH IT


Seriously, this is how I talk to myself in my STUCK WHEEL. Sometimes you need someone to kick your arse, and in this instance, it has to be yourself.


Scannable Document 3 on 19 Nov 2015, 14_02_07


Stage 3

Read back through your answers and transfer any actionable items to your to-do list (in my case a bullet journal).

email client for confirmation on something
schedule a day to work on this another day
download X software




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.



  • 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



  • 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?



  • 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?



  • is it important for this project to meet corporate branding guidelines?
  • does this need to be suitable for mobile use?
All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020