This is a guest blog post by Rebeca Pop, founder of Vizlogue, a Data Visualization and Storytelling Lab that offers workshops and consulting services. You can find Rebeca on YouTube, where she posts data visualization videos. Rebeca has been providing insights and creating data visualizations for almost 10 years. She has worked as a digital analytics leader for top media and analytics companies, and is teaching Data Visualization and Storytelling at the University of Chicago and at Northwestern University. Read more about Rebeca in her bio below.
Sometimes the right chart type isn’t one that you’ve used in the past, but rather a chart type that you’ve come across online. Other times, you might find yourself putting the final touches on a data visualization only to then realize that the design doesn’t look appealing enough. Whenever you find yourself in such situations, what do you do? Do you ask for help? Or, do you go back to the drawing board?
My suggestion is to select a few sources of inspiration that you can always go back to. In this blog post, I put together a list of 3 sources of inspiration that have helped me in the past when I got stuck in my data visualization process.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Yes, you read that right. I use Pinterest for data visualization in two different ways. First, I tap into the search feature. Tons of users have already pinned charts that they liked, so why not take advantage of this? For example, I was recently working on a project that included geographical data. I used the Pinterest search feature to explore examples of maps. My search keywords included “maps” and “maps data.” You can see some of the results below.
If you find an image that is inspiring, Pinterest allows you to click on it and go to the source. For example, I clicked on a map that showed up on my search and was directed to the datavizproject.com website.
Another way I use Pinterest on a regular basis is by pinning charts that I find on the web. The charts that I pin are typically those that are unique or intriguing. Sometimes I come across such charts on other social media platforms, while other times I find charts in media publications. Here’s a screenshot of my data viz inspiration folder. Note that you’ll have to create a Pinterest account before being able to pin images.
I should mention that I’m not the only data visualization practitioner who uses Pinterest to pin inspiring charts. Evelina Judeikytė is a data visualization designer based in Paris who has her pins nicely organized by categories such as colors, layouts, or chart types.
2. Nightingale Magazine
Nightingale is the journal of the Data Visualization Society (DVS), an organization that’s on a mission to increase the visibility and value of data visualization to the general public. The first print edition of the print magazine came out just a few weeks ago. At first, I was impressed with the outstanding production quality and beautiful design. As I read the articles, I started finding a lot of inspiration for future charts. The first issue covers the topic of “culture,” meaning it captures creativity, diversity, and inclusion. Topics range from the distribution of flag colors around the world to the rediscovery of W.E.B. Du Bois, a pioneer in the field of data visualization.
What’s more, the magazine comes with a 28-page booklet for kids that includes fun data visualization-related activities and stories.
3. Media Publications
Top media outlets started hiring data visualization designers years ago. As a result, many publications are highly innovative and stay ahead of the game in the field of data visualization. On a regular basis, I make a point to read a few media publications that I know have an excellent team of data visualization experts.
One of my favorite news publications is The Economist. I’ve had a print subscription for over 8 years and can credit them for inspiring me to create some beautiful charts over the years. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to subscribe to the print magazine. You can always read The Economist online and follow them on social media.
The New York Times is another media outlet that I’ve been closely reading for a few years as I was in search of data visualization inspiration. I follow them on Twitter as well and that is where I usually first come across some of their unique charts. NYT Graphics is my go-to source on Twitter if I want to explore primarily the charts and not necessarily read the latest articles.
Bloomberg is another media publication that frequently creates charts that I find inspiring. What’s more, they also have a Twitter account focused on graphs, maps, and data journalism from the Bloomberg Graphics team (Bloomberg Graphics).
I hope this blog post helped you find a few sources of inspiration to sharpen your data visualization skills. I encourage you to use Pinterest, order the next Nightingale Magazine, and follow the media publications that I mentioned above. Over time, you’ll see how something as simple as having a source of inspiration can help you create more engaging charts.
About the author
Rebeca Pop is the founder of Vizlogue, a Data Visualization and Storytelling Lab that offers training and consulting services. Vizlogue’s mission is to help companies and organizations communicate more effectively with data. To date, she has delivered presentations to over 3,500 participants all around the world.
Rebeca is also an Adjunct Professor in data visualization and storytelling at the University of Chicago and at Northwestern University. She has a decade of experience working in marketing science and analytics at top media agencies, across a variety of industries. To date, Rebeca has delivered data visualization workshops to many organizations, including The United Nations, Cision, The American Evaluation Association, Yardi, Apolitical, and FleishmanHillard. When she’s not reading, practicing, or talking about data visualization and storytelling, Rebeca enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and cycling.