Data Viz Done Right

May 30, 2016

Makeover Monday: The History of Famous Wrestlers

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Confession: I worked on this on Wednesday, several days before the data went live to all of you. Sorry! But I’m on a family holiday to Paris. Yes, Paris. Lucky us!

Anyway, the visualisation and data this week comes from Horizontal History. Andy C did the data prep this week, so if there are problems, blame him, though he won’t respond because he’s camping somewhere in France. I’ve been dreading this data set for a while. I didn’t find it particularly interesting, but Andy insisted since I’ve been blowing this one off for 2 months.

Let’s start by looking at the original visualisation. You should definitely take the time to read through the original article because the author went through painstaking efforts to gather the data and gives an amazing overview. I’m going to focus on the last chart because it’s the most complete.

Click the image for the full size version


What works well?

  • This is a TON of information to display in one view. Given that constraint, the author organizes it probably as well as possible.
  • The tall, thin layout works well and gives you a good sense for the length of the timeline.
  • I like the dashed lines that signify a new century. It breaks up the viz and makes it easier to follow along.


What doesn’t work well?

  • There are too many colors that are too bold. It’d be tough to come up with a color palette that works well for this many categories. Softer tones would work better.
  • I don’t like turning my head sideways to read something.  Rotate the whole viz and make it horizontal (which the author later did here).
  • While I get that this is supposed to be an extensive list, it’s overwhelming. I’d love to see some interactivity like filtering and highlighting so that I can find my own story.
  • If it were interactive, it would be good to include more information about each person as you click on them.
  • Simply the visualization. It’s just too busy, but granted, that was kind of the point the author was making.  Again, read the article and you’ll understand his approach.


I played with this data set, begrudgingly, for about 30 minutes and was getting a bit irritated. For me, it was overwhelming. I’m hoping others don’t feel the same way. I think my unconscious bias came into play this week against this data set. Finally I stumbled upon the Domain field and saw there was a sports category. Great! I love sports. This is the point where I decided to focus on a simpler subset of the data.

Within sports I first looked at footballers before finding the Holy Grail…professional wrestlers! I was a MASSIVE wrestling fan as a kid. The Hulk Hogan / Andre The Giant match from Wrestlemania III was totally changed wrestling. I’m watching it as I type this. Hulkamania shot through the roof! And in early 2015, I even got to meet the Hulkster in person!


So the heck with a makeover of the entire original viz, I wanted to create something about WRESTLING and the superstars I watched through the years. Enjoy!

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