Posts tagged design
Episode 46: 3 Smart Tips for Building Your Portfolio - Featuring Dillon Winspear from Designed Today

Welcome to episode 46 of Data Viz Today. Are you struggling with putting together an effective portfolio? I find it hard to know if I'm using my time efficiently. What do I need to include? When is it enough?!?

In this episode, Dillon Winspear is here to help. He's reviewed hundreds of portfolios as a Senior UX Lead at Domo, and I asked for his top tips for building a portfolio. Listen in and learn how to impress your hiring manager even if you only have 10 minutes to spare!

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

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Dillon’s podcast Designed Today

Dillon’s podcast Designed Today

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Episode 39: [Mini] 3 Design Tweaks that Make a Big Difference
 
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Welcome to episode 39 of Data Viz Today. I’ve been on a mission to improve my design abilities, and there are three design tweaks that I’ve found to be really effective in making my visualizations look more professional. In this episode, I share these three tips that pack a punch!

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

  • Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.

  • 00:15 - Today’s topic is 3 design tweaks that I’ve learned this past year that instantly improve the design of my visualizations. I’ll explain those three things, and I actually took an old chart that I had made and implemented these three things so you could see the difference. There are still a lot of things I’d change about that chart, but it’s interesting to see the transformation with just three tweaks. See below!

  • 01:10 - First, alignment. I try to make sure everything that I put on a page is aligned with something else, or there’s a really specific reason why it’s not. Usually I find left alignment looks best, especially with bigger chunks of text. In Adobe Illustrator, I’m always setting up my graphic with straight guidelines that I can use to snap all my elements to. You could mimic this in powerpoint or tableau by drawing your own guidelines along the margins or between groups of information. In Tableau dashboards, you can toggle on a grid by pressing the G key, which is super helpful. So be aware of what each element is aligning with, and also an alignment that’s easy to overlook - the vertical and horizontal spacing between your elements. Make sure there’s consistent space between your elements as well.

  • 02:10 - Second, text hierarchy. We talked about annotation hierarchy in episode 7 “How to Annotate Like a Boss” where you have a title, lead-in text right below it, then maybe subheaders and explanatory text within your chart to call attention to the points of interest. And all those text elements have an order that’s ideal for your audience to read them in. So how do you convey that order? Usually I go straight to size of the text, which definitely works well - bigger things are more important. And another option is weight. Many fonts of a light, regular, italic or bold option so you can layer those to create a hierarchy effect. Another way is color. One technique that I’ve been experimenting with is using a slightly lighter black, which can be easier to read that straight black, for the title, and then smaller text that’s grey for the subheader. Or for a white text that’s on a darker background, you can make text look less important by giving it a little transparency so it takes on a bit of the background color so it pops less than the white title. I’ve used this technique well with labeling. Like if I have a treemap and I’m labeling each segment with the category and the percentage, I write the category white and then the percentage in white with added transparency. It’s legible and cohesive because I’m not changing much, but it still gives a little hierarchy.

  • 03:50 - Third, keep annotations simple. After doing episode 26 “How to Develop Your Design Eye” I realized how crazy I was with my annotations. You can see in the shownotes for that episode, I had created a viz for rainfall in DC and then I came across a similar viz by Jane Pong for rainfall in Hong Kong a few years earlier so I had the unique chance to directly compare what I created with something a pro created with a very similar dataset. And one big thing that stood out is that Jane had these really elegant and understated annotations calling out interesting days with short, slightly curved black lines and text within the chart, and by comparison, my annotations looks almost comical because the lines were really long and flowy leading out to text outside the chart and colored red! Then I also had these big clunky arrows along the axes as if people didn’t know which direction to read. So now, I keep my annotation lines as short as possible, with only one curve (not bending in and out and around), and in a consistent thickness. Like the line doesn’t start small and get bigger. I’ve noticed that when I use arrows or lines that do that, it looks more clip-arty.

  • 05:30 - One resource that really helped me as a beginner is Canva’s Design School. They have a bunch of interactive tutorials and courses that do a good job of teaching some basics.

  • 05:50 - My final takeaway is that there are a few design tweaks that can get a lot of mileage out of. And for me, those have been making sure each element is aligned with something else, make sure your text has hierarchy with size, weight or color, and lastly, keep the arrows and annotation lines simple.

  • 06:30 - You can sign for my weekly newsletter that I send out every Sunday with top tips from the episode. I love mailing it out every week and getting your replies!

  • 06:35 - I also have a resources page with my favorite books, blogs and podcasts.

  • 06:45 - And I also have two online courses - one for creating your first custom map using Mapbox, and the other is a shortcut to learning how to create charts in Adobe Illustrator.

Here is an example of those three tips applied to an old viz. There’s still a lot of changes I’d make now to this viz, but doesn’t the new one look a little more professional with better alignment, clear visual hierarchy, and simple annotations?

 

My old visualization BEFORE tweaks

AFTER - making a few tweaks

AFTER - making a few tweaks

 

Allison Torbanmini, design
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.

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

  • 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!


Episode 28: How to Build a Connection With Your Data Through Original Visualization - Featured Data Visualization by Sonja Kuijpers

Welcome to episode 28 of Data Viz Today. Is it ever beneficial to stray from the usual chart types and create your own original, novel data visualization? i.e. A viz where you decide what each free-form shape, line, and color represents. In this episode, host Alli Torban explores how this technique can lead to a deeper connection with your data. Featured data visualization by Sonja Kuijpers perfectly illustrates how creating an original visualization can turn overwhelm into clarity.

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

  • Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.

  • 00:30 - Today’s episode is about how to build a connection with your data by creating original visualizations. And by original, I mean something that’s out of the typical chart type (bar chart, line chart, scatter plot), where you decide what each shape, line, and color represents and build a visualization from it that represents some dataset that you have.

  • 01:15 - Today’s featured data viz project is called “Keuzestress” by Sonja Kuijpers

  • 01:20 - Sonja is an information graphics designer who runs her own company called Studio Terp based in the Netherlands.

  • 01:35 - Her viz Keuzestress was a personal project of hers, translated from Dutch it means Choice Stress.

  • 01:45 - Sonja was searching for a mascara that fit her needs, but soon found out that the there’s an overwhelming number of decisions that you need to make in order to choose a mascara - add length, add volume, add curl, or how about all three? How can she pick one?

  • 02:10 - Well, since she’s an information designer, she decided to create a viz out of all the information.

  • 02:20 - She scraped the data on all the mascaras that a Dutch makeup webshop supplied using Parsehub, which is a free web-scraping tool. And she cleaned it up in Excel.

  • 02:50 - So she took the characteristics that she wanted to visualize and started drawing some forms that she felt fit for that characteristics, like a black circle to represent a black mascara and a thick grey ring to represent adding volume, and she put all the little shapes that she came up with and put them on top of each other and then she realized that all the shapes together actually looked kind of like an “eye”.

  • 04:00 - Then she was finally able to give her mascara anxiety a little bit of order and put each one in its place amongst the others. She identified the couple of specifications that she wanted and was able to put her finger on the exact one she wanted. The final viz was created using Adobe Illustrator.

  • 04:55 - By putting the mascara choices into a custom-styled data viz, she was able to take something that was giving her anxiety and turn it into something more tangible that she could sort, order, and connect with.

  • 05:35 - Sonja’s project reminded me Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec’s Dear Data project where they hand-drew visualizations of little things in their life like how many times they checked the time during the day.

  • 05:50 - Giorgia has a wonderful TED talk where she talks about this project and how when she explored her reality and visualized it with these hand-drawn visualizations, she was able to transform the abstract and uncountable into something that can be seen and felt, and it helped her feel more connected to her life. By handcrafting visualizations of information, she tries to re-connect numbers to what they stand for: stories, people, ideas. What she called data humanism.

  • 07:40 - My inspired viz used the data visualization survey results from Elijah Meeks.

  • 08:15 - Goal: feel a connection to my fellow data vizzers, specifically other women in the field. Listen for my process!

  • 10:00 - It was a really tedious process arranging every single shape to put together each of the 142 women who took the survey. But it was also really cool because it allowed me to feel really connected to each one, like I found my heart and I could see the women next to me who are similar age, similar experience, does she have a STEM major, was she self-taught, is she interested in learning more design?

"The Women of Data Viz" by Alli Torban 

  • 10:40 - My final takeaway is that by creating a custom, free-form visualization of your data, you can create something that’s not only beautiful and engaging, but also something that helps you connect with your data - like in my women in data viz project or help you quantify something that feels overwhelming to you like in Sonja’s project. If we can visualize data in an unrestricted way, it can open us up to appreciating our imperfect and intricate realities in a beautiful and meaningful way. So try freeing yourself of chart types, and see if you can connect with your data through this visualization technique.

  • 11:45 - Finally, I asked Sonja what’s her advice to designers just starting out, and she said “Ask. Don’t be afraid to ask! The dataviz community is a warm one (in my experience) and you can reach out quite easy on Twitter (where most are active) to ask for advice.”

  • You can keep up with all her work on her website and follow her on Twitter!

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Episode 26: How to Develop Your Design Eye & Transform Your Work - Featured Data Visualization by Jane Pong
 
Jane Pong

Jane Pong

 

Welcome to episode 26 of Data Viz Today. Being able to see the difference between well-designed and poorly-designed data viz is half the battle! But when your work always looks amateurish to you, it can be really frustrating. In this episode, host Alli Torban identifies specific ways that you can close the gap between your good taste and your developing skills. Featured data visualization by Jane Pong perfectly illustrates how dense data can still be designed in a clean and engaging way, and I take notes from her to remake my viz from a past episode!

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

  • Welcome! I'm Alli Torban.

  • 00:25 - Today’s episode is about how to cultivate your design eye. I think before you can design well, you need to be able to see the difference between good and bad design. It comes more naturally to some people than others, but that doesn’t mean it’s not learnable! This is important because by training your design eye, you can elevate your taste and know what it takes to create even more beautiful and functional data viz.

  • 01:45 - In this episode, we’ll talk about the viz that inspired this, how it was built, and my 3-step process that I’m going to call the “IRA method” that I plan to execute every time I come across a data viz that I love so that I never waste an opportunity to further cultivate my design eye.

  • 02:09 - Today’s featured data viz project is called “Rain Patterns” by Jane Pong. Jane is a data visualisation designer based in Hong Kong.

  • 02:20 - I came across Jane’s viz because she was interviewed by Jon Schwabish from the PolicyViz podcast.

  • 02:55 - Her viz was exactly what I tried to do in my inspired viz in episode 23 where I wanted to show daily rainfall in D.C. over the past decades, except Jane did it for a Chinese newspaper back in 2013 and her design was so beautiful.

  • 03:15 - Jane created this viz because Hong Kong was heading into the monsoon season and she was curious to see whether it occurred at the same time every year, and when the typhoons were happening. The daily rainfall and cyclone warning data is from the Hong Kong Observatory.

  • 03:40 - Design inspiration: She knew she wanted to create a bar graph showing daily rainfall, but wanted to invert the y-axis so the bars looked like they were falling down from rather than rising up out of the axis. She thought it’d be a really nice visual metaphor for rain falling, which was inspired by Simon Scarr’s viz on the Iraq War where he showed the number of fatalities in red as if it was blood dripping down.

  • 04:18 - Jane said the hardest part of creating this viz is that back in 2013 she was just getting into data viz and her coding skills were pretty minimal so she spent a lot of time looking up how to load the data and draw the data with code. Another wrinkle is that since she was creating this for a newspaper, it had to published with the right timing, so she had to update the graphic several times while she was waiting for the rain to come!

  • 04:50 - The final viz was created in Processing, exported as a PDF and touch up for publication in Adobe Illustrator.

  • 05:58 - After seeing Jane’s viz, I became super interested in figuring out WHAT made the design of her viz so beautiful and effective?

  • 06:18 - It’s easy to see good design and appreciate it and also feel frustrated that your own designs look so amatear in comparison to others, but that thought reminded me of a short video by Ira Glass that I had seen a while ago. In the video, he said “If you’re someone in a creative field, you probably started because you have good taste.”  And he went on to make the point that when you first start creating, there’s a gap between what you are capable of creating and what you think is good. And it’s frustrating… and this is where most people quit because it’s hard making amateurish work when you know it looks amateurish… but keep pushing! Ira says to keep creating because through practice you can start closing that gap.

  • 07:22 - If I can analyze good design in an intentional way, I can start training my design eye to see all of the little choices that produce really amazing work. Which also reminds me of Andy Kirk’s blog series called “The Little of Visualisation Design” where he highlights and comments on a small design choice that can make a big difference in data viz.

  • 08:23 - I put together three questions to ask yourself whenever you see a data viz that you really like, so you can quickly identify what’s making it good design so you’ll know how to apply it to your own work.

1. What is my first impression? What feelings or emotions is it bringing out in me?

2. What makes it easy to read? Things like visual hierarchy, font choices, color, and sizing. It’s general readability.

3. What’s making this viz stand out or unique? What specifically is making it so alluring to me?

  • 09:00 - So in honor of the sage advice from Ira Glass, I’ll use the acronym IRA to remember these questions: Impression, Readability, Allure.

  • 09:15 - Every time you find a viz that pulls you in, ask yourself IRA and write down your answers: Impression - What’s my first impression? Readability - What’s making this easy to read? Allure - What makes it unique and alluring?

  • 09:27 - And list out a few specific things that are contributing to your answers… like is it specifically the color palette that’s making it alluring? Is it the abundance of white space that’s making it easy to read?

  • 09:40 - Listen for how I put the IRA method to the test on my data viz from episode 23 using Jane’s viz as inspiration!

  • 12:55 - My final takeaway is that we should take the advice of Ira Glass - don’t be discouraged if your work doesn’t match up with your taste - be patient and keep practicing and you’ll close the gap. Specifically for data viz, take a well designed viz and turn it into actionable edits to your work by using this IRA method. Write down what exactly is giving you a good first impression of the viz, what exactly is making it so readable, and what’s giving it that special allure or uniqueness. By taking note of these little design decisions, we can cultivate our taste and design eye so that we can edit our own work in a more refined and elevated way, and keep closing that gap.

  • 13:40 - Jane’s advice to designers just starting out: “Always remember the audience you’re designing for, and what you want to achieve with your data visualisation. Experiment and iterate, and judge your designs based on the goals you want to achieve.”

  • 14:00 - Jane’s website and follow her on twitter!

  • 14:10 - Join the in-person data viz book club if you’re in the Northern Virginia area.

BEFORE

AFTER


Episode 25: How to Design a More Inviting Data Viz - Featured Data Visualization by Sarah Bartlett
 
Sarah Bartlett ( source )

Sarah Bartlett (source)

 

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.

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

  • 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.

  • 03:50 - But she had a problem…She couldn’t get the data off of the website easily. Her friend Lorna Eden scraped the data from the website using Alteryx.

  • 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

BEFORE

AFTER

 

  • 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.”

  • 14:40 - Follow Sarah on her website and on Twitter

  • 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!