Data Viz Done Right

April 27, 2017

A Day of Data Viz With the English Institute of Sport and PGIR

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Today I had the incredible honor to talk to the English Institute of Sport and PGIR about data visualisation and why they should care about it...and I got to do it at the home of England Rugby.

Twickenham Stadium - Home of England Rugby

Twickenham is my home town, so I was able to walk to the stadium and rehearse my presentation along the way. The day started with a quick recap of their previous day, and this was the first chart I saw. "Oh boy, this might be a long day" was the first thought in my head. Deep breaths Andy. Deep breaths.


Surely Duncan did this on purpose for the benefit of the day. And yes, I did say something. From there, we went on a tour of the ground going through the tunnel onto the pitch.


Once on the pitch, we made our way to the coach's box.

View from the England coach's box

There, the team analysts talked to us about their gameday setup, where the coaches sit, how they pass information, etc. I found it fascinating how rugby teams use data in-game, right there with the coach, to make decisions, yet football doesn't allow any of that. How archaic!

We went back into the locker room to talk about the facilities available to the players and how they transmit all of their data post match.

England dressing rom

Team conditioning room

We then made our way upstairs so the analysts could learn about data visualisation. The rest of the day started with a talk by me titled

What is Data Visualisation? And Why Should You Care?
This was a new talk for me, with the focus on getting the team to understand the impact displaying data visually can have. I started with a couple of simple examples, we discussed why we do data analysis, talked about how they can get started, how to constructively evaluate visualisations, and a brief intro to the design process.

After this talk, four different analysts presented some of their work. Each table then took 10 minutes to discuss and write down what works and what could be improved based on what I had taught them. This worked like magic! I then gave my opinion in front of the whole group and suddenly a mere four hours after we started, we had a bunch of data viz snobs! I love it! It's so great to see the light bulb go off and especially to see them critiquing their own work.

The day concluded with a series of "appointments" where they could chat with me one-on-one about their work and get individual feedback. It reminded me a lot of the Tableau Doctor sessions at TC.

I made notes throughout the day and came up with a list of 10 key takeaways:

  1. Include context - compared to what?
  2. Where should the eye focus?
  3. Highlight what's important
  4. Be careful with stop light theme 
  5. Include a call to action whenever possible
  6. Pay attention to color usage
  7. Know your audience
  8. Does the audience now what to do next?
  9. Effective chart types (boring is ok if it works)
  10. White space is ok - it gives the viz room to breathe

Overall, an incredibly satisfying day. Thank you EIS for asking me to come! I'd be happy to do it again any time. For those interested, here's my presentation.

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