Episode 29: 3 Essential Steps To Finding Your Unique Style - Featured Data Visualization by Federica Fragapane

Welcome to episode 29 of Data Viz Today. How can you find your unique data viz style? I've started my quest to find mine, which I hope will help me find my voice and create work that’s more representative of my point of view. I know it’s not something that happens overnight, but what can I do to get started? Featured data visualization project by Federica Fragapane provides plenty of inspiration for how to get on the right path.

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  • Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.

  • 00:22 - Today’s episode is about how to find your unique style. How can I take a step toward defining my own style and unique data viz point of view?

  • 01:00 - Today’s featured data viz project is a book called “Planet Earth” illustrated by Federica Fragapane. Federica is an Italian award winning freelance information designer.

  • 02:15 - So how does someone get into designing a kids book? Federica had started to experiment with combining data visualization and illustrations, and a publisher had seen some of her projects and approached her for a collaboration. They were looking for someone to design a whole children’s book combining data visualizations and illustrations, which fit exactly with her experimentations.

  • 02:30 - She collaborated with Chiara Piroddi, who is a psychologist and helped Federica design the infographics with children in mind. Some tips for designing data viz for kids: create a familiar connection with the shapes - have certain shapes and colors repeat often, and create legends in many places so they have all the information they need to understand the visualizations.

  • 04:00 - What was Federica’s design inspiration for this book? She told me that she wanted to create a joyful connection between the pages and the readers, so she actually went back and flipped through her own kids books that she read as a child. She still had them, and it helped her recall colors, shapes, and details that really brought out positive feelings for her when she was a kid. So she used those positive feelings and the visual elements that conjured them up as your starting point and worked from there to develop the style of the book. Federica looked at illustrations from her audience’s point of view, but she even took it a step further and sought out illustrations were meaningful when she was the intended audience.

  • 05:06 - Federica used Adobe Illustrator for the visualizations and Photoshop for coloring her hand-drawn illustrations.

  • 05:20 - Get the book on Amazon!

  • 05:50 - I love how Federica has a really unique style, and it inspired me to start defining my own personal style. How can I get to the point where people see my data viz and instantly know that’s from me?

  • 06:10 - Reminded me of data viz style guides used at companies. Check out Jon Schwabish’s curated list of style guides from around the world.

  • 07:30 - The thing about style guides is that they’re built with the company’s brand in mind, but also with their audience in mind. What color complexities and formats work best for their audience. Just like Federica does - she uses her audience as a starting point for her design inspiration.

  • 07:53 - I thought this was a perfect first step to defining my own style - get in the mindset of your audience.

  • 08:20 - Let’s build this out in 3 actionable steps…

    • #1 - Who is my audience? Who am I designing visualizations for? Is there a Style Guide in my organization? List out the “cracks” in the style guide where you can inject your own style. There might be certain colors and fonts that I have to use, but maybe font size and line style are free game. Or I use certain patterns and strokes to highlight certain areas that would look unique. Maybe there are certain techniques that I could use like we talked about in episode 27 about Edward Tufte’s book where he suggested some techniques for erasing non-data ink like the range frame. Federica uses a lot of circles, curved lines, small multiples, and plays with opacity, shading and layering… all things that give her a unique style that she’d probably be able to bring with her into many situations.

    • #2 - Build inspiration boards of designs that you catch your eye. Like color palettes, shades, fonts, spacing, lines styles, and chart techniques. Federica told me that she’s constantly looking for visual inspiration, even if she doesn’t have a specific project in mind. She’s learned that her eyes are attracted to certain shapes, colors and elements. She seeks out the visual elements that give her positive feelings and works on incorporating them into her work so that she can recreate that joy. So try scrolling through pinterest and pin the images (data viz or not) that make your eyes light up and bring you joy. Keep an eye out for different color palettes, shading, shapes, lines, corners, edges, spacing. All those little things….If you missed episode 26 that’s a great one to help you zone in on the tiny, specific elements of great design.

    • #3 - Embrace your evolution. Your style is going to change over time, and it’ll probably need to change from project to project depending on your audience, so don’t hold too tightly and just keep experimenting. So I’m just going to add anything and everything, knowing that my style is going to evolve over time.

  • 13:45 - My final takeaway is that the 3 essentials steps that you need to take in order to define your own personal data viz style are

    1 - Define the parameters around what your company or audience needs, and then identify which design elements are free for you to play with. Even with strict style guides, I bet you can find some cracks.

    2 - Start with one image that really brings you joy or you wish had your name on, and search Pinterest for similar image. Build a board of inspiration with color palettes, shading, shapes, lines, corners, edges, or spacing that you like.

    3 - Keep in mind and embrace that your inspiration is going to change and evolve over time and with each project so go with it and keep experimenting and refining.

  • 14:38 - Eventually we’ll turn the corner and create work that people can immediately identify as ours… just like the beautiful work of Federica.

  • 15:15 - You can keep up with all her work on Behance and on Twitter

  • 15:30 - Check out my Resources page for links to all my favorite books, blogs and tools!