What advice I'd love to get as a dataviz newbie

I used to work as a market analyst for a couple of years before I switched to data visualization and started to call myself an information designer. Even now I still consider myself a beginner, but based on my experience and background I developed some strategies and routines that can be helpful for someone who has just started in the field.

In this blogpost I would love to share the information that can help you to boost your professional growth at the very-very early stage of your career.

I’ve been saving beautiful pics of DataViz for years before I realised what made me push the “Save” button. Everyone wants their works to be noticed, to be shared, to be saved — so before you start, before you try to create your first the most basic dataviz ever I strongly recommend you try to answer the question — What makes a regular DataViz a remarkable one?

There are 3 main components you need to consider if you want your visualization to stand out.

  • Storytelling — what is the message, how do you convey it, is it easy to follow this message just looking at your viz, how do you want people to feel when they look at it, who controls the data behaviour and so on?
  • Design — how you use visual tools such as color, shape, contrast to communicate the message, what’s the visual structure of your work, what are connections and reference of your design to the material world
  • The technical side of the project — how deep your analysis is, what’s the level of complexity of the visualization, how unique and special the technical part is

Ideally, all three components should be balanced to make an exceptional visualization, but it’s not that easy especially when you are a beginner and probably you’re more skillful in one area than the other depending on your previous background.

Use your strengths but work on your weaknesses

Here is one of my works that was chosen as Viz of the Day by Tableau Public. Let's be honest from the technical part, it’s very simple and I think anyone who just opened Tableau can do something like this. But it grabs the attention of its quite playful storytelling and entertaining design elements.

I don’t try to persuade you that it’s an example of good work (now I see all the mistkes), but it illustrates how you can stand out by pushing your strengths (storytelling and design in my case) during the working process and keep developing your technical skills and analysis.

Don’t get caught up in Tutorial Stage

I know, it’s a tricky one — I’ve seen a lot of people drown into tutorial-stage, and I’ve been there too. The stage when you think you need to finish one more course before you finally start doing the incredible visualizations. But I would recommend you to change the perspective and look at your current lack of skills and knowledge not as an obstacle but as a constraint and learn to cope with it.

If you're serious about building your career in any creative field … wait for it… in any field you need to learn how to work and to flourish inside existing constraints. And as earlier you learn this trick as faster you progress will be.

With every new #MakeOverMonday challenge I’ve tried to add additional challenges (a.k.a constraints) like: build a viz you’ve never made before or make a color palette that isn’t typical for your works — any of this could be a good exercise for training your creativity and wit

Give freedom to your imagination

Sometimes just take a pen and think about all the possible ways to display the given information, even if you don’t know how to build this type of viz YET. Ideas themselves are more important because they not the tools we have at our disposal right now, are what inspire us to learn, explore and discover. So do your best to find a way to make real even your craziest idea — search online, watch tutorials and don't be afraid to ask for help. Be prepared that sometimes you won’t reach the initial goal but as long as you learn something new you may consider that a success

Don’t compare yourself to others

Seeing all those beautiful interactive visualizations I couldn’t get rid of the thoughts like ‘I suck’. But this way of thinking is completely destructive. Instead, try to think about your career as a video game where everyone reaches different levels at different timelines and try to be the best at your current professional level: the best newbie, the best beginner, the most skillful beginner with maps, etc. In other words, take as much as you can from every stage of your professional journey, enjoy the process and make new friends.

And of course HAVE FUN with everything you do!



Information designer. Thoughts on design and data analysis. Expository writing. Twitter @anakomissarof