Makeover Monday - A Reflection
In November 2016 I joined Cloudstream Partners as an Informatics Consultant, having spent a number of years working with Tableau in my previous job at Virgin Care, I was excited to finally get a chance to use tableau even more and become involved in the tableau community, which I had often admired from a distance.
During my first team meeting I was set a huge challenge; complete all 52 Makeover Monday submissions before the end of the year. This meant completing on average 2 per working day.
For those that don't know, Makeover Monday is a community initiative set up and run by to Tableau community stars Andy Kriebel and Andy Cotgreave (and now Eva Murray). The initiative provides participants with a dataset and link to a article The aim is to try and improve the original or provide an alternative view of the data visualisation / data story.
One of the main aspects of the challenge that I really enjoyed was being able to have a guaranteed and dedicated amount of time to practice utilising tableau in different ways. Using Tableau was a frequent part of my previous job, but was I was often limited to designing a dashboard quickly for a certain audience, rather than be able to truly experiment and ‘enjoy’ the process. So knowing that I had the rest of the year to dedicate to tableau was quite an exciting prospect!
Along with this dedicated time came the chance to use new and engaging data sources that I hadn’t come across before. I had previously been limited to just the data my company had available which could often only really be displayed in the same or similar formats. So it was engrossing, engaging and sometimes challenging to dissect these new datasets. I often found that the datasets I had no knowledge of were difficult and I couldn't find the inspiration for these dashboards, the MLB Baseball and Stephen Curry datasets were a prime example of this. Despite being new and interesting data sets, being a Brit I had (and still have) no clue or even concept of how Baseball/Basketball is played (can we have an NFL dataset please Andy! :) ), and I found myself taking more than the recommended hour to create these dashboards. For the Stephen Curry Viz , I really wanted to create a scatterplot with a custom background of the basketball court, plotting where all the shots were taken from and coloured by whether they were successful or not. I probably spent around 4-5 hours trying to get this to work , but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get the court to line up correctly with the scatterplot , so instead settled on using an area chart/circle chart combination, which although it shows what I wanted to, I still cant help but think the basketball court would have been much more useful and visually appealing (I will come back to this again at some point in the future and give it another go!)
Of course along with the new datasets came the chance to try out new and interesting techniques/charts. The Hex Map (inspired by Matt Chambers) for Week 14’s Urban Diversity was a great example. Many data sets don’t lend themselves to this kind of viz (especially those I encountered in day to day work) but it was a great way to learn a new skill, which I then continued to use a number of times since (both in my MM projects and for clients).
The same could be said for the radial chart (okay I’ll be honest - I still don't really understand them completely - but thats for another time) I created for ‘Is the earth getting warmer?’ dataset. Its rare that I would get the opportunity to try one of these charts, and seeing them used on so many tableau public profiles so i had to give them a go.
Of course there were also a few difficulties that I faced during this challenge. The prospect of needing to complete 52 makeovers before the end of the year ,although incredibly excited, it was also a very daunting task, and although it start off well initially, I soon found that I started to create viz’s because I HAD to (and you can see some of these looking through my final ‘collection’). This then led to a lack of motivation on actually completing the makeovers towards the end ( i mean i had done 40+ by this point) , and was only ever really solved when I came across a data set I particularly enjoyed or from some encouragement from the wonderful Cloudstream Team ;). This, along with the fact that i wanted to complete the challenge set to me, kept me going.
Unfortunately as hard as I tried, I was unable to complete the challenge on time and the main factor on this was having to spend more and more time on client site. I only had a few weeks before I was working full time with a client throughout December, meaning all makeover Monday’s had to be done outside of work hours, which would be fine being once or twice a week… but two a day became an exhausting task and this is where I really got a huge amount of encouragement from our team.
Writing this blog post made me think… “what are my favourite makeovers” , so i took a look through and selected my favourites (it would be good to hear your thoughts on these!)
#1 - Week 36 - Alan Rickman
I really enjoyed creating this one!, I was inspired by watching the Harry Potter films with the family over Christmas (notice the harry potter themed font!). It became one of my favourites because it really gave me the chance to play with images, fonts and designs without having to really ‘analyse’ the data.
#2 - Week 20 - Is Global Warming Spiralling Out Of Control?
It gave me a chance to test out using a radial chart, and I feel like the colour scheme on this one really went well with the story. Besides who doesn't like a play on words!
#3 - Week 50 - Dangerous Drivers
It was an interesting data set and I really like how the black makes the colours pop so much!
Overall , despite not being completed exactly on time (hey i was only a few days late!) it was still a great feeling to finally complete that final viz (although it was a bit odd doing a Christmas dinner makeover after new year!) , and I enjoyed a few well needed beers in celebration. It was a fantastic learning experience for me and opened my eyes into new ways to approach visualising data and has improved my tableau skills significantly. It made me appreciate the way we all approach visualisations, everyone has a different take and style, and thats what makes this project so great, plenty of opportunities to learn from others. It also introduced me into the fantastic tableau community, which is truly unique, bursting with mutual appreciation, encouragement and incredible inspiration on a daily basis.
I would recommend anyone who has not got involved with the initiative to give it a try, even if you’ve never used tableau public before!, I promise you, you will learn a lot!.I will also be recommending that we use this as a medium for all inductions for new colleagues going forwards (it will be fun to be on the other side of this too! :) )
So to round up, heres a video of all 52 of my Makeover’s in a short video! Enjoy!!