Questions in Dataviz
A Design-Driven Process for Data Visualisation
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This book takes the reader through the process of learning and creating data visualisation, following a unique journey with questions every step of the way, ultimately discussing how and when to bend and break the "rules" to come up with creative, unique, and sometimes unconventional ideas. Each easy-to-follow chapter poses one key question and provides a selection of discussion points and relevant data visualisation examples throughout.
Structured in three parts: Section I poses questions around some fundamental data visualisation principles, while Section II introduces more advanced questions, challenging perceived best practices and suggesting when rules are open to interpretation or there to be broken. The questions in Section III introduce further themes leading on to specific ideas and visualisation projects in more detail.
Questions in Dataviz: A Design-Driven Process for Data Visualisation will appeal to any reader with an interest in creative or unconventional data visualisation and will be especially useful for those at a beginner or intermediate level looking for inspiration and alternative ways to deploy their data visualisation skills outside of conventional business charts.
Table of Contents
Preface. Author. Introduction. SECTION I First Questions. Chapter 1.1 Should the data drive the visualisation? Chapter 1.2 What’s in a colour? Chapter 1.3 What does data visualisation have in common with psychology? Chapter 1.4 Do data visualisations have to tell a story? Chapter 1.5 Is it OK to steal? Chapter 1.6 Is white space always your friend? Section II Challenging. Questions Chapter 2.1 Why do we visualise data? Chapter 2.2 Why do we visualise using triangles? Chapter 2.3 Does it matter if shapes overlap? Chapter 2.4 What is data humanism? Chapter 2.5 What is design-driven data? Chapter 2.6 Do we take data visualisation too seriously? Chapter 2.7 Why create unnecessary data visualisations? Chapter 2.8 When are several visualisations better than one? Chapter 2.9 What can I do when data is impossible to find? Section III Idea Questions. Chapter 3.1 What is the third wave of data visualisation? Chapter 3.2 What alternative ways are there for visualizing timelines? Chapter 3.3 Why do I use flowers to visualise data? Chapter 3.4 What are Data Portraits? Chapter 3.5 How can I take inspiration from album covers? Chapter 3.6 How many ways can you tile the United States? Chapter 3.7 Is it possible to tile the world? Chapter 3.8 Can you create visualisations using only numbers? Chapter 3.9 How do you visualise music? Chapter 3.10 What are Truchet tiles? Chapter 3.11 How do you create 31 visualisations in a month? Index.
Neil Richards is a data visualisation specialist and enthusiast with over twenty-five years’ experience in the data industry. Through his regular personal creative data visualisation projects, he has been awarded the title of Tableau Visionary (formerly Tableau Zen Master) a total of four times, and is a regular speaker at data visualisation conferences and user groups. Formerly Knowledge Director for the Data Visualization Society, he also sits on the Board of data visualisation non-profit Viz For Social Good.
Neil works as a Lead Business Intelligence Analyst at JLL and has a BSc. in Mathematics and a BA in Environmental Studies. He lives in Derbyshire in the United Kingdom.
"It’s a common experience for newcomers in visualization to be a bit disoriented. Here are some questions we’ve all asked ourselves at some point: Am I doing things correctly? Should I use this type of chart or that other type? Is this color palette appropriate? Will my intended audience understand the point I’m trying to make with this graphic? Will they be able to use the graphic’s interface? Am I breaking any rule of visualization? And so many others.
The difference between Neil Richards and the rest of us is that Neil has written an entire book about his posing those questions to himself, and about the journey towards trying to answer them. Spoiler alert: the journey is often circuitous, and sometimes lacks a clear destination. But who cares? The journey, and not where it leads, is what can make us wiser as professionals; the process of reasoning to disentangle complex design choices has a value of its own.
Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, walking that path along someone as friendly and personable as Neil makes the experience exciting and joyful."
– Alberto Cairo and Tamara Munzner, Series Editors, AK Peters Visualization Series
"Questions in Dataviz is an amazing resource for data visualisation folks looking for different and more creative design ideas - instead of following the norms of business data visualisation it asks the questions that challenge conventional practices to inspire new ideas to develop your own style and data visualisation philosophy.
Neil introduces us to the concepts, inspirations and designers that inspired him, and encourages you to ask questions to find your own design driven journey into more creative design-driven output."
– Giorgia Lupi, Pentagram
"Beyond technical skills, statistical knowledge, and creative talent, one of the most vital attributes in data visualisation is to be curious. Before a chart comes data. Before the data comes a question. Questions fuel one’s understanding about anything and in this super new book, Neil Richards eloquently demonstrates his amazing flair for being curious. He answers the questions he had – and that anyone else should have – about the journey towards successfully mastering data visualisation. He delightfully unpacks the whys, the why nots, and the hows of this complex subject, in a wonderfully engaging and perfectly nuanced way."
– Andy Kirk, Visualising Data Ltd.
"Neil writes about the 'why' behind his own chart design decisions in an engaging way that will give any new practitioner a glimpse inside the brain of a data visualization designer, with examples that showcase how an individual designer's style evolves and changes over time.
For the experienced practitioner, Neil's book offers a tour through the many questions about our motivations and design decisions in data visualization that have emerged over the past decade or more. In some ways, the ideas feel like a delightful highlights reel of debates and discussions born out on Twitter and in various slack channels, summarized neatly and without judgement around the ways we may come to different answers to those questions."
– Amanda Makulec, Executive Director, Data Visualization Society
"Neil is a luminary in the field and his work clearly pushes the boundaries of data visualization. This book will help people push past the "standard" chart types and consider different, alternative visualizations that they may not have considered before."
– Jonathan Schwabish, Urban Institute and PolicyViz
“When do we break the rules? What are the exceptions? What is the decision making process that goes into creating dataviz and how do you bend the universal principles based on specific circumstances? This book explores these questions in an open-minded way.”
– Valentina D'Efilippo, Award-winning data designer