Episode 25: How to Design a More Inviting Data Viz - Featured Data Visualization by Sarah Bartlett
Welcome to episode 25 of Data Viz Today. How can you create a data viz that feels inviting to your reader? Host Alli Torban explores the specific design elements that can offer your reader an enjoyable experience. Featured data visualization by Sarah Bartlett perfectly demonstrates how investing in an inviting design can lead to a pleasant, informative, and memorable experience.
Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.
00:25 - Today’s episode is about what makes a design inviting. What do I mean by inviting… the definition of inviting is “offering the promise of an enjoyable experience.” To me, an inviting design is one with a harmonious color palette, it’s easy to read and orient myself, and basically the whole thing doesn’t look intimidating, like it’s going to be a lot of mental work to decipher.
01:35 - Today’s featured data viz project is called “Explore European Cities on a Budget” by Sarah Bartlett. Sarah’s a data visualisation consultant & Tableau Ambassador based in London.
02:40 - Sarah said she almost didn’t submit a viz into the feeder competition this year because she had gotten super busy and her search for a dataset was turning out to be uninspiring. There was only 6 days left until the deadline so it seemed hopeless. Then she received the best advice from a former iron viz champ Tristan Guillevin: don’t get hung up on the data set. It’s never going to be perfect and exactly what you envisioned. Pick one, start visualizing it in tableau and a new idea and story will come to you.
03:26 - So with this new perspective of finding something basic and building up from it, Sarah started searching with a tourism perspective and found a website called www.priceoftravel.com that breaks down the costs of traveling to different cities, like lodging, food, activities.
04:28 - For design inspiration she used pinterest and the site CSS Drive to upload an image of a European city that she liked and it automatically generated a color palette for her to use which had soft blues and browns.
05:40 - She added two things that I think really take it from a nice viz to a really inviting viz.
She added a small map with her color palette using Mapbox and picture for each city. It’s super easy to create custom styled maps in mapbox and if you’ve been wanting to try it, check out my free Mapbox course.
She used icons instead of labels for her bar chart.
Pros of icons: save a lot of real estate by replacing text with pictures, and these pictures give your readers the benefit of being able to easily scan and process the information. It’s inviting because people are drawn to real life objects that they’re familiar with and the data doesn’t seem so intimidating.
Cons of icons: you have to use icons that are really easily understandable so you don’t make it even harder to understand than text (test it with your audience). It can look cluttered if you don’t use the similar colors and style (like line thickness, curved or straight edges).
08:25 - Sarah used the website NounProject to download royalty free icons
09:45 - Then she asked some fellow tableau users to give her feedback. She said it’s always amazing to her how helpful getting feedback is because you just get so blind to easy mistakes because you’re staring at the viz for so long.
10:33 - Sarah was able to pack in so much information but make it so inviting and fun to explore. I think the top 3 things that contributed to this was her harmonious color palette, the map and image that orients you to the city, and the icons that just give the charts a less intimidating feel.
10:55 - Applying these three things to the viz that I did about chess in episode 11 because it just feels like kind of a cold viz to me, but it’s about something fun and interesting, so I think it could benefit from some design elements that make it softer and more inviting.
11:40 - So first thing, color. I used CSS Drive to get the color palette out of an image of a forest that I chose because it made me think of those chess sets that are carved out of wood.
12:10 - I added a map of the small town outside of Amsterdam where the tournament takes place to orient the reader to what this is. I used Mapbox’s site called Cartogram which lets you upload an image and it’ll automatically style your map features based on colors from your image. So my color palette was extended to my map.
12:38 - Then I started looking for places that I could add icons to make it easier to read. I used a brown person icon and an image of the eventual winner Magnus Carlsen instead of diamonds in the viz.
13:37 - My final takeaway is that inviting design is your way of offering the promise of an enjoyable experience to your reader. And to me, an inviting design is one that’s easy to read, orients you, and doesn’t feel intimidating and cluttered.
13:55 - Try using a color palette inspired by nature or art, use a map and pictures to orient your reader, and use icons to reduce clutter and make your information easier to process.
14:06 - Sarah’s advice to designers just starting out: “Get as much practice as you can. Practice your craft every day if possible. To avoid getting bored, try and visualise data on a subject you enjoy such as your favourite band, movie or hobbies.”
14:55 - Come and join the Northern Virginia in-person version of the Data Vis Book Club (started by Lisa Charlotte Rost) on August 22nd!