Data Viz Done Right

October 17, 2018

Tableau Tip Tuesday: 82 Charts in 80 Minutes

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If you're not a part of The Information Lab's new Meetup group Let's Talk Data, then you're missing out on some great opportunities for FREE learning. Join the group to get all of the latest information. We host many events at the new home of The Data School in London and webinars anyone can join from anywhere in the World.

Monday, I ran a free Tableau Zen Master Tips & Tricks webinar. I changed it from the previous webinars I ran last year; this time I focused on charts. I wanted to see how long it would take me to build 82 charts. It took a little under 80 minutes. This was a rehearsal of sorts for the Tableau Speed Charting session Jeff Shaffer and I are running at TC18.

Click on the image below to access the workbook with all of the chart types. I've also embedded the video from the session in the "Video" tab. Enjoy!

October 16, 2018

Tableau Public: The Heart of the Tableau Community

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As this is my 1000th blog post, I wanted to write about Tableau Public and what it means to me.

When Tableau Public launched back in 2010, I had no idea how much it would change Tableau the product, Tableau the Community, and me personally. The impact on how people see and understand data would not be what it is today without Tableau Public. I'm 100% convinced of that. Why?

Tableau Public is the heart and soul of Tableau. Tableau Public is THE BOND that holds the Community together. Tableau Public is THE PLATFORM for sharing our work. Tableau Public is THE SOURCE for getting inspiration from others.

Without Tableau Public, learning, sharing, and exploring would be significantly more challenging.


Without Tableau Public, there would be no Makeover Monday. There would be no Makeover Monday book. There would be far less people improving their skills week by week. There would be far less engagement within in the Community. The thousands of people that have participated, never would have engaged. If there was no Tableau Public, would these people have ever found Tableau?

Without Tableau Public there would be no Viz for Social Good. There would be no Workout Wednesday. There would be no Sports Viz Sunday. Without Tableau Public there would be far fewer people practicing data visualization and data analysis week after week through these Community projects.

Without Tableau Public there would far fewer friendships born out of a common love for data. There would be far fewer people finding the careers they love.

Without Tableau Public, would there be a Tableau Community?


Picture this: you've purchased a new office and need to hire a designer to help you make the space yours. How would you go about hiring this person? Would you scan LinkedIn and look for people with the title "Interior Designer" or look for people that went to design school? Of course you wouldn't. You would ask to see their portfolio. Imagine a designer coming in to meet you and not bringing a portfolio of their work. Would you hire them? Of course not. You're interested in WHAT they've done, not where they went to school. Their portfolio IS their CV.

From a Tableau perspective, Tableau Public is the new CV. The secret to hiring people that are great at Tableau is to look at their Tableau Public profiles. If someone doesn't have a Tableau Public profile, don't hire them. Those people, more often than not, don't understand the ethos of the Tableau Community. And if they aren't part of the Community, I would seriously question their skills. How can you evaluate their work if they don't have a portfolio? can't!

Eva and I have been asking people to tell us how Makeover Monday has helped them get a job they love. Person after person has told us that their Tableau Public profile was the major differentiator for them getting the job. People have been able to DEMONSTRATE their work, live in front of those interviewing them. They've been able to prove they have the skills needed for the role. Those companies may have asked for a CV, but what really mattered to them was WHAT people have done.

Through Tableau Public, you can see the progression of someone's skills. You want to look for people that have clearly shown improvement. Without Tableau Public, how would any of these people have been able to show their progression?


Tableau Public is a platform that allows you to practice. You can build chart types you have never built before. You can practice data analysis, storytelling and design. Without Tableau Public to inspire each other, how would we know where we need to develop?

The development of these skills allows you to showcase your work. Having Tableau Public to share you work helps others see your passion and the quality of your work. It's this combination of passion and quality that distinguish high performers from others. Without Tableau Public, how would people showcase their work?


What has Tableau Public meant to me? First and foremost, it's been a way for me to share what I'm learning. Yes, I write about each technique on this blog, but I can actually share the workbooks and the techniques by uploading the workbooks to Tableau Public and allowing people to download them, try to recreate them, whatever they want to do with them. Tableau Public, the platform, encourages sharing and I'm grateful that Tableau Public has provided me with that opportunity.

Tableau Public completely changed my life. If I didn't have a Tableau Public profile, I would not have gotten my job at Facebook. If I didn't have my Tableau Public profile, would Tom Brown have taken a chance on me to run The Data School? I'll never know, but I'm certain that Tableau Public exposed me to these opportunities. When I share, I expect nothing in return. When you share freely, opportunities will come to you as they have to me.

Without Tableau Public, I would not have been able to travel the world introducing people to Tableau for the first time. Tableau Public allows me to show people what is possible in Tableau. All I need to do is show them the Tableau Public gallery. People think we're all crazy for this addiction we have to Tableau. I'm perfectly ok with that because I know Tableau Public provides me an opportunity to learn every day.

That leaves me with only one thing to say...thank you Tableau Public. Here's to many more years.

October 15, 2018

Makeover Monday: The Under-representation of Women in the House of Representatives

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Us Americans have been through an interesting few weeks. We had the Kavanaugh hearings that put a focus on the women in the Senate, so when Stephen Pelkofer recommended his viz for a makeover, we thought the timing was right. The community seems to enjoy topical data set.

Let's have a look at Stephen's viz:

What works well?

  • It's simple and easy to understand.
  • Nice and clean; there's no unnecessary decoration
  • Using colors that represent the parties
  • Using a line chart to represent change over time
  • Labeling the end point makes us aware of the current situation

What could be improved?

  • The stepped lines are necessary.
  • The ratio of the chart looks strange to me.
  • The title could be more impactful.
  • Adding a y-axis would add context.

What I did

  • Focus on the % of women and men in each party
  • Use the party colors, but still be able to distinguish men and women
  • Use a line to break up the area chart
  • Use an impactful title and subtitle
  • Use a viz in tooltip to show BANs

With that, here's my Makeover Monday for week 42. Click on the image for the interactive version:

October 12, 2018

Workout Wednesday: Top & Bottom Highlights

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What a super useful workout this week from Ann Jackson! Get all of the requirements here. The idea was to build a dashboard that allows the user to highlight the top and bottom panes based on a set of options. There are so many use cases for this in a business setting.

The Easy Parts

  1. Creating the small multiples layout
  2. Limiting the data to 2017/2018. I chose to do this via a data source filter so that I didn't have to worry about adding the date field as a filter and add it to context.
  3. Creating the line chart
  4. Formatting the axis properly
  5. Creating the calculation needed for the shading (I approached it by doing one of the top calculations, then one of the bottom calculations, then the combined)
  6. Creating the total sales text at the top-center of the chart

The Biggest Challenge

  1. I knew I had to calculation right for the label for the latest month, but for the life of me I couldn't get it working. I felt like I needed another axis for the mark, then it dawned on me like a slap in the face how simple the solution is.

Here's a gif of the working solution. Click on the gif for the interactive version.

October 7, 2018

Makeover Monday: Five-year Cancer Survival Rates in America

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It's been an eventful week in America, but irrespective of your politics, this week's Makeover Monday is something we can all feel positively about. Cancer survival rates are increasing!

Here's the original viz:

What works well?

  • Simple title that explains what the viz is about
  • Cancer types are sorted from highest to lowest based on the five-year survival rate
  • "All cancers" is sorted at the top since it's the overall statistic
  • Using arrows to indicate improving or declining
  • Using different colored dots for each time period
  • Including an explanation for how the data came about

What could be improved?

  • The subtitle is long. I had to read it a couple times to understand it.
  • The viz overall feels kind of busy.
  • By using directional arrows, the change over time is lost. The change isn't linear, but the design could be interpreted that way.
  • Color the arrows by increasing or decreasing. Uterus and Cervix Uteri cancer survival rates have decreased, but that could easily be missed.

What I did

  • Incorporatde the change over time
  • Used BANs for the first period and the last period measured and the difference
  • Used a big dot to indicate a reduction in survival rate
  • Used row banding to guide the eye from left to right (taking a lesson from last week's Workout Wednesday)
  • Provided an option to filter by race and gender
  • Used a set to split the view into the top 9 on the left and the rest on the right; my first version was one long viz, but I didn't like how I had to scroll.
  • Used reference bands vertically and horizontally to give the labels space on the ends of the lines

Click on the image below for the interactive version.

October 4, 2018

Workout Wednesday: Where are Sub-Category Sales Down?

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Three weeks in a row now! Feels like I'm on a roll. This week, Luke challenged use to create an actionable table which alerts users to the problem areas very quickly. This is a neat way to get people to begin the journey from Excel tables to interactive visualizations.

Read all of the requirements here.

Some thoughts:

  • I had used a lot of the tricks before, so I had an idea where to start. This video should be helpful for the indicators.
  • I ended up using the modulo function along with an INDEX table calc to find the odd and even numbered rows so that I could format all of the text correctly.
  • Getting the year to align correctly with the numbers was the toughest part. I could tell by looking at the viz that the text was centered, yet it was made to look like it was right-aligned. Therefore, I had to come up with a solution for padding the text on the left for smaller numbers. I won't give away how I did it.

Really good challenge. I particularly enjoy the workouts that have practical use cases for every day work. Thanks Luke for the challenge!

October 2, 2018

Storytelling With Data Challenge: Annotated Line Graph

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For those unaware, Cole Knaflic runs a monthly data viz challenge over on her website. These are a great way for you to flex your data viz muscles. I haven't participated yet, until now!

I'm going all the way back to her first challenge in January: Annotated Line Graph. For me, it's been tough to learn the balance between enough text for context and too much that overwhelms. I feel like I'm splitting the difference here, by highlighting the highs and lows of Tableau's stock price.

Thanks for the challenge Cole! Click on the image for the interactive version.

Tableau Tip Tuesday: How to Filter a Dimension and Maintain the Rank

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This tip is inspired by Craig Bloodworth, CTO of The Information Lab and Tableau Zen Master Hall of Fame member. Craig demonstrated this when an attendee at our Zen Master session asked how you can filter a dimension and maintain the rank.

I gave one solution which would show and hide dimensions, but Craig's is way way better. It's a neat way of using table calcs to filter a dimension since a table calc filter happens AFTER other table calcs are computed.

Also, in the video I reference our new meetup, Let's Talk Data. If you're in London, there will be tons of events at the new home of The Data School. If not, don't fret! We have some virtual events as well.

With that, here's the how you can filter a dimension and maintain the rank.

October 1, 2018

Workout Wednesday: Vertical Label and 3 Mark Types

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For Workout Wednesday week 39, Rody challenged the Community to create a shaded area chart with a line on top and marks for each month. That's three mark types, but Tableau only supports two at a time. In addition, the axis label has to be vertically aligned, that is, each letter in the word has to be below the preceding word.

I was expecting some crazy polygon calculations from Rody, and perhaps that's how he approached it. I, however, was able to create the required view with only two marks and the text shelf. Before I get to how I came up with my solution, here's my submission:

For the dashboard layout:

  1. I used a vertical container with a 50px blank on each side. 
  2. The rest of the viz is in a horizontal container in the middle of the vertical container.
  3. I added spacing to the outside edges of the black line to get the spacing right.
  4. I added some spacing at the top of the parameter and the dynamic title.
  5. The parameter is in a horizontal container with a blank on either side set to distribute evenly.

For the chart:
  1. I used an area chart on one axis.
  2. I used a line chart on the other axis.
  3. I used an ascii ● as a label on each mark on the line. This has to be centered vertically and horizontally for it to appear in the correct place for each month.
  4. For the vertical label, I used this knowledge base article to add a line break after each letter. Since there are 8 letters max, my formula has 8 lines and then I trim the text.

I'm sure there's a better way to do the vertical labels using the length of the string, but this works. In programming, I'd use a WHILE loop. Thanks Rody!

September 30, 2018

Makeover Monday: Historical Avocados Prices

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Behind bananas, I don't of anything Eva likes more than avocados. So when I saw data about avocados in the Data is Plural newsletter, I knew I had to pass it along to her.

This week's chart to makeover comes from OverRidge Wealth Advisors:

What works well?

  • Using a line chart makes it easy to see the rising price.
  • The title, while simple, tells us what the chart is about.
  • The subtitle provides context.

What could be improved?

  • There's no indication of the currency. The article mentions both US and Mexico as main sources, but the chart doesn't indicate whether it's dollars or pesos.
  • The avocado in the background is distracting and completely unnecessary.
  • If the avocado is removed, the line could be made black.
  • Labeling the ends of the lines would add context.
  • The title could be changed to something that tells the story in the data.
  • Is this good or bad? Rising prices could be good if you're the produce, but bad for consumers.
  • The gridlines could be more subtle.

What I did

  • I wanted to create something that shows the trends for each city plus the overall.
  • Simplify the colors.
  • Include BANs for the current price and an indicator of the change.
  • Create "cards" for each region, similar to the profit and loss statement I created.
  • Include a mobile version

September 26, 2018

Workout Wednesday: Discovery Dashboard

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I haven't been keeping up with as many Workout Wednesday's this year as I would like to, but when I saw some comments about the week 38 challenge, I thought it would be one I could get done quickly. The challenge comes from Ann Jackson and the idea is to build a dashboard where the users can pick and choose what they see. This is such a practical use case for anyone building dashboards.

From Ann:
One of my absolute favorite things about Tableau is that not only is it a fantastic data display tool, but it is amazing at data exploration and discovery.  While you’re in the flow of analysis there are tons of built in features that provide you feedback, awareness, and insight into your data.  Everything from displaying the number of marks on a sheet in the lower left corner (along with the sum of a measure) to exposing the worksheet summary card.  You can customize it to show you so many options and it’s one of the first tools I use when getting hands on with new data.

I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and will use it going forward as a challenge in the Data School. Click on the image below for the interactive version.

September 24, 2018

Makeover Monday: Priorities for Progress on Gender Equality

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This week Makeover Monday HQ is collaborating with the folks at Equal Measures 2030 focusing on issues related to gender equality. Learn more about the background on the introduction webinar Eva ran with them last week here.

What works well?

  • The colors are easy to distinguish.
  • The footnotes help to explain the percentages...sort of.
  • The chart layouts are easy to understand. Bar charts nearly always work well.
  • Labeling the top of each bar removes the need for an axis.
  • Good drill down from the overall to the per region level.

What could be improved?

  • I find the chart titles quite confusing.
  • Comparisons within a single region are difficult.
  • I had no idea how to read these charts without reading the article. A chart should, ideally, be able to stand on its own.

What I did

  • I focused on making over the bottom chart.
  • I kept the original colors.
  • I changed the bars to dots to help show the range of responses better.
  • I didn't convert the responses to percentages as I wasn't confident it was accurate.
  • I included a sorting option to allow sorting by the total responses or the responses within a region.
  • Based on a twitter conversation with Dan Caroli last week, I turned on advanced logging feature which tracks each change you make in a sheet and then I turned them into this gif.

With that, here's my Makeover Monday week 39 for Equal Measures 2030.

September 17, 2018

Makeover Monday: How does the cost of a ticket change as your trip approaches?

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This week we look at viz straightforward viz from DW:

What works well?

  • Simple title and subtitle that explain what the viz is about
  • Line colors are easy to distinguish
  • Good small multiples layout
  • Reversing the time scale so that the larger number is to the last since it represents more days in the past
  • Making the obvious
  • Sorting the routes by distance

What could be improved?

  • Reduce the font size for additional information like the footnote and the source
  • Move the subtitle closer to the title and add space between the subtitle and the first chart
  • Label the ends of the lines

What I did

I don't mind the original too much other than I feel like it's missing some context. I decided to basically recreate the chart, but show the change in price as the days got closer. For me, this helped show how much more expensive tickets will be if you wait until the last minute.

September 13, 2018

Clayton Kershaw & My Learning Process

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What is Learning?

According to UC Berkley, learning is a process that:

  1. is active - process of engaging and manipulating objects, experiences, and conversations in order to build mental models of the world (Dewey, 1938; Piaget, 1964; Vygotsky, 1986). Learners build knowledge as they explore the world around them, observe and interact with phenomena, converse and engage with others, and make connections between new ideas and prior understandings.
  2. builds on prior knowledge - and involves enriching, building on, and changing existing understanding, where “one’s knowledge base is a scaffold that supports the construction of all future learning” (Alexander, 1996, p. 89).  
  3. is situated in an authentic context - provides learners with the opportunity to engage with specific ideas and concepts on a need-to-know or want-to-know basis (Greeno, 2006; Kolodner, 2006).
  4. requires learners’ motivation and cognitive engagement to be sustained when learning complex ideas, because considerable mental effort and persistence are necessary.

I've left a couple bits out that aren't relevant to learning in the context of data visualization, but all of the others should resonate with you if you approach learning with the correct mindset.

As an example, I am actively look for reasons to practice features in the Tableau 2018.3 beta, especially around density mapping. I was reading an article this morning about Clayton Kershaw, whom many consider the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. He also has highest base salary at $33M for 2018.

Most of the density maps I've seen have had a mapping component. In the case of baseball, and pitching in particular, the spatial zone is the strike zone. Data is easily accessible to get the coordinates of every pitch as it crosses home plate.

For this project, the learning process:

  1. is active in that I am building my knowledge as I explore the data set and learn the new features.
  2. builds on my prior knowledge of how the feature works and my knowledge of the game of baseball. However, I had never done a scatterplot of pitching before, so I had to learn new terminology in the data. This knowledge will help me be more productive and learn faster in the future.
  3. is situated in the authentic context of engaging with the ideas and visual concepts that I saw online and drew on paper.
  4. required my motivation and engagement to see the project through to fruition and the persistent to make the display visually accurate.

I hope my thought process helps you focus your learning. I love helping people get better at what they do and if I can help you speed up your learning, then we'll all be better for it.

With that in mind, here are two images I created for this project. The first is all pitches by Kershaw and the second is of his curveballs, which is known to be his most potent pitch. Once Tableau Public supports Tableau 2018.3, I'll publish them and include links on the images.

September 11, 2018

Tableau Tip Tuesday: How to Conduct Market Share Analysis with Level of Detail Expressions

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In this week's tip, I show you how to do market share analysis with Level of Detail expressions. In this video, I show you the calculations, then I expand it to make it more dynamic using a parameter.


September 10, 2018

Makeover Monday: Spending at Trump Properties in Washington D.C.

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I think it's very safe to say that Donald Trump is the most controversial President ever. This week's data comes from ProPublica, who explain part of the reason why people doubt Trump's commitment to the country over himself:
Since Watergate, presidents have actively sought to avoid conflicts between their public responsibilities and their private interests. Every president since Jimmy Carter sold his companies or moved assets into blind trusts or broadly held investments – until now. Donald Trump never did this, despite his expansive holdings. He stands to gain personally when groups pay his companies. 
Let's start by looking at the chart created by ProPublica:

What works well?

  • Colors are easy to distinguish
  • Good interactivity for additional information
  • Filter options are obvious and easy to use
  • Sizing the blocks gives you relative comparisons
  • Good use of annotations
  • Stacking the blocks makes it obvious there were more records in one month versus another

What could be improved?

  • Using size for the blocks makes exact comparisons difficult
  • Include a title
  • Include a subtitle with additional context
  • Provides the user the ability to ask "How does this affect me?"

What I did

  • I explored the data quite a bit, before focusing on Washington. I did this because I saw a large increase in spending after Trump was elected.
  • Use simple colors like the original
  • Compare spending during the Campaign vs since Trump has been President
  • Use BANs to call out the import information

With that, here's my viz for Makeover Monday week 37:

September 3, 2018

Makeover Monday: Where Nike Products Are Made

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Nike, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, is also being very transparent with its data about their facilities. Hopefully many other companies will follow their lead. Here's the viz Eva tasked us with making over:

What works well?

  • The summary card on the right is packed full of information and as you zoom, you get different levels of detail.
  • Keeping the map a single color allows you to focus on where the factories are located.
  • Excellent interactivity
  • Overall, everything is simple and clean.

What could be improved?

  • Adding some filtering capabilities
  • Make it easier to identify the smaller countries, possibly by outlining the countries with a white border.

What I did

  • Mimic the style of the cards with its BANs
  • Make some of the importion that's buried deeper in the map more evident
  • Use Nike official colors
  • Add some simple interactivity through actions

This is a pretty simple viz this week and I really enjoyed making it. It's almost like a report card.