Episode 18: How to Start a Passion Project That Hones Your Skills & Opens New Doors - Featured Data Viz by Amy Cesal

Amy Cesal . Image via Amy.

Amy Cesal. Image via Amy.


Welcome to episode 18 of Data Viz Today. How can you start your own data viz passion project that hones your skills and opens the door to new opportunities? Host Alli Torban dives into specific ways you can find and execute a passion project that brings you joy and growth. Featured data visualization project by Amy Cesal perfectly models how a passion project can be fun, bring new opportunities, and grow your skills!

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Google PodcastsStitcher, SoundCloud & Spotify.

"Day Doh Viz" project by Amy Cesal. Image via her  website .

"Day Doh Viz" project by Amy Cesal. Image via her website.

  • Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.

  • 00:25 - This week’s episode is about how you can start a passion project that brings you happiness, hones your data viz skills, builds your portfolio and opens new doors.

  • 01:00 - Check out artist Heidi Horchler’s Instagram - she’s creating a watercolor version of my cover art, which came from her passion project.

  • 01:35 - Featured data viz called “Day Doh Viz” by Amy Cesal.

  • 01:40 - Amy is a graphic designer who specializes in data visualization.

  • 02:00 - Amy wanted to do a 100-day project that included data viz, 3-D objects, and was away from the computer.

  • 02:35 - She thought about her nostalgia around play-doh, so she decided to create a data viz made out of play-doh every day.

  • 03:00 - Her 100-day project’s goals:

    1. Get away from the computer and create more data visualizations for fun.

    2. Expand her network on social media - reaching and interacting with more people.

    3. Highlight data that she found interesting - mostly around personal finance.

  • 03:40 - Lessons learned: creating a play-doh viz every day was too cumbersome for her schedule so she scaled back to a few a week.

  • 04:15 - Skills learned: improved data collection and cleaning, how to use a clay extruder gun, photography, lighting, social media, copywriting, and kicking her perfectionism.

  • 05:15 - Has she achieved her goals? She’s had fun, moved away from the computer screen, gained hundreds of twitter followers, inspired teachers and others to explore play-doh vizzes, was asked to write guest blog posts for prominent blogs, more clearly defined her creative point of view, and it has given her more confidence.

  • 06:15 - How can you get started with your own passion project?

    1. Write a list of skills you want to improve upon or want to show off.

    2. Write another list of your unique experiences, things you’re passionate about, and things that bring out emotion in you (nostalgia, joy, anger, frustration).

    3. Combine things from both of these lists, think about the experience you want to have when doing this project, which will help lead you to the right project.

    4. Then write out what success looks like to you.

    5. Start creating and sharing!

    6. Or base you passion project on your dream job! If you want to be a data journalist for a big news outlet, pick items from your “passion” list and create vizzes in the style of that news outlet so you end up with a portfolio that has your point of view that looks like it’s already apart of their team.

  • 07:45 - Be open to tweaking the project if it’s not fun or achieving your goals.

  • 08:00 - THIS podcast is my passion project! Listen for my story.

  • 10:30 - I created a new passion project by going through the exercise above - listing out skills I wanted to improve and things that I care about.

  • 10:45 - It’s “Mini Data Reporter” - brings together my desire to improve children’s data literacy, serve the low-vision community, and improve my design skills. It’s a one-page assignments that leads kindergarten-aged kids.

  • 11:30 - My goal is to have these fun assignments for my daughter and I to do together, allow other low-vision kids/parents to use these worksheets to have fun learning data literacy, and improve my design/formatting skills.

My passion project.

My passion project.

  • 12:00 - My final takeaway is that I really believe that growth brings happiness, and of course it’s possible to grow within your day job, but a passion project allows you to grow in ways that you choose while also having fun.

    1. Write a list of things that are unique to you, things that bring out an emotion in you, and skills that you’re looking to improve or show off. Combine these things, talk to your family and friends about it, and you will think of something fun to try. Then wrap some constraints around it and share what you create.

    2. The worst thing that can happen is that you discover something that you don’t actually like to do and you try another idea! The best that can happen is that you learn a new skill, connect with like minded people, build your portfolio and find new opportunities.

    3. Give it a try and tag me on twitter or instagram with your passion project because I’d love to see it and share it!

  • 12:45 - Amy’s advice to designers just starting a passion project: just do it, create something every day and let go of perfectionism.

  • 13:10 - Follow Amy on Twitter and check out her website! Thanks, Amy!

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