Makeover Monday: The Next to Die

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Andy and Andy have been posting a series of relatively morbid Makeover Monday topics recently, perhaps none as somber as The Next to Die – an exploration of death penalty executions across the United States since 1976. It’s possible that this topic is on my mind because we’re currently in an incredible political season in America, but I’ve found myself thinking more and more lately about the concept of communicating facts and their importance when making a persuasive argument. “The Next to Die” repeatedly makes claims to its own impartiality, reflecting upon the lack of opinion it portrays about the morality or efficacy of the death penalty. However it is clearly a politically-driven document, and its motivations are transparent the second you read it. Any critique of the visualizations presented within “The Next to Die” must consider the intended argument and the language used in addition to the visual design of the pictures portrayed within. The Map This map is still difficult for me to understand. While i appreciate the effort to normalize the size of states to avoid the intrinsic bias in over-representing larger geographic areas, I find the use of color confusing. The brightness of the red coloring indicates […]

Makeover Monday – Breaking Convention to Capture Attention

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In the most recent episode of Tableau on Tableau, Dustin Smith and I briefly mentioned what we refer to as the “Andy Cotgreave” method – which is reflected in a lot of the British Andy’s visualization work. I brought up Andy’s tendency to defy convention in the interest of making visuals which will start conversations and draw his audience in. There are pros and cons to this approach. On one hand, and as more comprehensively described by Robert Kosara, a data graphic designed purely for presentation purposes can be more memorable if it contains creative or pictographic elements. This can make an audience remember and care about your point even without a complete understanding of the data. Alternatively, breaking visual best-practices can distract from the real conversation if you’re in a room full of data viz experts, and it can create real barriers to entry for your audience. If they can’t quickly understand your view, it doesn’t matter how great it looks. Perhaps this topic is what made me take the approach I took for this weeks’ Makeover Monday exercise. First, take a look at the source viz, published on I looked at this viz and read the article, and these […]

Podcast: Tableau Insider with Dustin Smith

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Dustin introduced me to Tableau. I was 24, and I was working at a small tech startup in Seattle. I had just gotten a promotion to the title of “Junior Business Analyst.” I’m still not sure what that means. Dustin and I were tasked with manipulating data, all day, and delivering it to people in the business and sometimes to our customers. One day Dustin turned to me and said, “You know, why don’t you try messing around with this Tableau thing?” I downloaded a free trial and opened up Tableau version 4.1. I went to the website and listened to the training video, recorded by Marc Rueter. At one point I swiveled around in my chair and said to Dustin, “This is pretty fucking cool.” A year later we were both working at Tableau. There are a lot of funny stories that emerge at people’s jobs. Our stories happen to be about data. We are curious about everything, and if there’s data on it, we want to analyze it. These may just sound like funny stories, but they are pivotal to how we developed as employees, as professionals, and as people. They shaped our careers, and the growth of Tableau […]