Episode 09: How to Humanize Your Data Viz - Featured Viz by Rodrigo Menegat & Vinicius Sueiro

Rodrigo Menegat. Image via LinkedIn.

Rodrigo Menegat. Image via LinkedIn.

Vinicius Sueiro. Image via LinkedIn.

Vinicius Sueiro. Image via LinkedIn.


Welcome to episode 9 of Data Viz Today. How can we approach a dataset that will make people feel connected to it? How can we humanize our data viz? Host Alli Torban dives into these questions by examining Rodrigo Menegat and Vinicius Sueiro's data visualization called "All the Government Barbecues," which won a Kantar Information is Beautiful Award in 2017.

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"All the Government Barbecues" by Rodrigo Menegat and Vinicius Sueiro. Image via their website.

  • Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.

  • 00:41 - Today’s featured viz is called “All the Government Barbecues” by Rodrigo Menegat and Vinicius Sueiro. It won a Kantar Information is Beautiful Award!

  • 01:30 - I want to dive into the question: How can we humanize data viz?

  • 02:00 - Rodrigo initially wanted to find out how much of the expenses made with government credit cards were under state secrecy or violated the state bidding laws.

  • 02:20 - The data was publicly available.

  • 02:35 - He discovered these expensive barbecue dinners in the dataset and thought it would be a great angle that would draw people in.

  • 03:00 - He used Python to merge the files and do some initial analysis.

  • 03:27 - Vinicius first plotted the data using the Python library using Seaborn. Then brought it into Adobe Illustrator to pretty it up.

  • 04:00 - He discovered blend modes - they dictate how overlapping colors look, which made the points look glowy/fiery. This worked perfectly with the story of barbecues.

  • 04:20 - The final viz was built using Python, Adobe Illustrator. The article’s website was built using CodePen with HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

  • 06:30 - Two tips to humanize data:

    1. During a panel discussion at the 2015 Computer Assisted Reporting Conference, Nikole Hannah-Jones pointed out that readers don’t care about the full data. If they did, they would go out and find it themselves. By drawing out the face behind the number, you’re not just avoiding the glazed-eye effect, you’re giving the reader a reason to go on to the next paragraph. In Nikki Usher’s book called Interactive Journalism, she says the “near view” gives readers a chance to see how something affects them, and the far view gives readers context about everyone included in the data. Near and far reporting offers the experience and the social context. How do I personally relate to this? And what are the broader impacts? In a panel discussion about humanizing data at the 2016 Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference, Kendall Taggart suggests to ask yourself, who is getting hurt by any of this? Find out who’s been hurt and how you can quantify the problem.

    2. Bring your reader to your story using their senses - you probably are relying on sight and sound. So colors, movement, animation, music, or voice are all great things to play with to bring your reader into your story.

  • 09:45 - My inspired viz uses the data from #VizForSocialGood - you can join too and create a data viz for a non-profit every month!

"Elderly Women in Palestine" for Viz For Social Good by Alli Torban


  • 11:15 - To help me see the “near view,” I asked myself, “what would make me mad about this data set?” I was able to list a whole line of questioning out of empathy that gave me a focused way to tackle the data.

  • 12:20 - To help the reader connect more to the data, I used Google Street View to get dominant colors from the geographical area of the survey to use for my color palette.

  • 13:05 - Final takeaways: to humanize your data, focus on the “near view” - a specific experience that people can relate to. Ask yourself “What would make me mad about this data?” And use your reader’s senses to bring them into the viz (colors, sound, etc.).

  • 13:33 - Rodrigo gives us his advice for designer’s just starting out in his own words!

  • 14:40 - Follow Rodrigo on Twitter @RodrigoMenegat and check out Vinicius’ website!

New episodes are released every Tuesday at 6 AM EST.