(flowing techno music) - There is no lack of amazing examples of people creating incredibly interesting, and original, and unique visualizations of data. They can be stunning an insight inducing visuals that can take your breath away. While also teaching something new and important. Now the subtitle of this course is a lesson and listen series, because in each episode I teach a lesson, and then interview someone so you can listen and hear how they do work that applies to the theme.
But how do you teach originality, creativity, going beyond the standard? Well it ain't easy, but I'm going to to try. I do have some tips and tricks to help you get your creative juices flowing. First, you have to just let go. Let go of your restrictions, let go of all the criticisms and inhibitions in your life. You can deal with them later. For now, your job is to try to come up with something new and different, even weird. So let yourself do that. Second, use your hands.
I always say you need to ditch your software and use a pencil and paper, or a whiteboard, or at least a tablet with a stylus or your finger. But using sketching software, not software with difficult features you have to battle with. In fact in this course, I'm going to be using an iPad and I'm using very basic simple sketching software, which you'll see. So, you need to sketch because you can move very very quickly. Whatever ideas you come up with, you just sketch them out visually and you move as fast as you can. You try something, it'll spark an idea, you try that, you try something else, you're just moving, and moving, and moving.
The end result may look like a disaster, but it will give you ideas that you can perfect later. Don't try for perfect, try for speed and volume in this first phase, it's very important. Specifically for being creative with data visualization, I recommend focusing on the categories of things, the number variables, how they relate to each other, and what is important that you're trying to communicate to your audience. And to what level of granularity? For instance, here's a real project I was given by client.
My task was to visualize about 20 to 30 different scored products. The products came in four categories, and four different companies were producing them. Each one was being scored based on how it performed for the company producing it, as well as for the consumer buy it. Confused yet? Yeah, it's a lot of stuff. I knew that you'd want to be able to see the overall score as well as the two individual scores, for the company versus the customer. But I also knew the comparison could be pretty vague.
You don't need to see that one scored a 3.2 versus another with a 4.1 You just needed to see that this product is awesome! And that this and this product is no good. Or this one is good for customers but not good for the company et cetera. So, I just start drawing. I'm just trying to brainstorm and think of good ideas. My first thing I'm thinking about, I'm trying to get into the complexity of the four companies, and the four product categories, and all the different ways the scoring things. Rather than letter myself get overwhelmed which is easy to do. I might just say alright, well one easy thing I know I could do is I could just do a grid.
So there's four categories of things, and I have a bunch of products, each one by a different company and so I'm exaggerating here, but each company is going to be somewhere in this grid and maybe there's bubbles to show the scores. This would be a pretty easy way of getting across the data. So that's an option just from a big macro scale. I can also just do a circular thing like a radial diagram broken into quadrants. One quadrant for each of the four categories and maybe there is radiating lines for each of the type of products or something.
Again, maybe I am just using bubbles sized to mean something. So I'm just sort of getting to the big idea of how I can organize the content in this way, either of these two idea us are going to work and I'm not really worried about which one right now. And I'm immediately thinking as I'm starting to draw, that the complex thing I think might be communicating those two types of scores. How will this performed for a company versus a customer. Really what I end up doing is I abandon, I don't worry about the big picture idea, how I'm going to organize it, I sort of start focusing in on that very specific idea of how I'm going to communicate scores across these two ends of the spectrum.
And so a very basic simple idea, maybe I'm just going to do bubble size. So I have the name of the product and a bubble in one size and a bubble in the other size. This one's doing well for the company which is on the left and not as well for the customer on the right. That might work. Maybe I can do overlapping bubbles, maybe I can do rectangles the do weird things. I don't know. Maybe they're concentric circles like this with dotted lines. I'm drawing as quickly as I can think of an idea, I am not being discriminating at all. That's the point of working with your fingers with a pencil, iPad, etc. I try weird things What if I have bubbles like balloons, maybe they're hanging off a platform.
That's very weird, and I don't like it. Maybe I'm trying out something like this, it's a bubble and then I have arched lines. That's a good score this is a terrible store. All right that's something. Maybe I have the product name and then I have these weird scooping lines. Maybe the souping lines go the other way. I don't know, I'm trying things. Mostly these ideas are going to be thrown out, they're terrible, but one or two of these ideas might work. And that is the point, speed not perfection I can't say it enough that's really why we're doing this type of a process.
So again work quickly, embrace the weird and silly ideas. Even if they don't work and sometimes they will, by the way. They will spark other ideas that may work better. Long story short, I just let go and try everything, I move quickly, I break things. That's a great strategy that often works. Spend 30 minutes brainstorming like this, let it go for a good long time, and then walk away. Work on something else. You'll find yourself thinking about it, you can always come back and jot any of any new ideas down that you come up it with while you're away walking around, whatever you're doing.
Then go away again, come back later and try for another like 15, 20 minutes. do it at least three times like this, generate a lot of ideas. Then you can look critically at your sketch and weed out the abject failures, and you will have some, hopefully you do. Eliminate the things that don't work, but don't erase them. Just eliminate them in your own mind before you move on to design. You can even put a circle around the better ideas, the ones that are still valid. Narrow down to a few that are worth testing with real information, cause as you can see, this is not real stuff over here.
I'm just jotting down quickly. Once you're testing with real information, you can decide will your data fit in that format that you're trying. Are there too many data points for that one idea that takes too much space? Are the names too long? Remember for that swoopy line weird things that I did? If the names are this long, the swoops go out this way, is it going to fit on the screen or the page? Does that even make sense visually? And take a very skeptical idea to your visual concepts. For example, I was working on a project that had a similar challenge, and it was to show a four part score for each school in the school system.
So the idea was eventually narrowed down to an icon that looks something like this. And while we were working on this, this seemed like such a great idea because the basic idea was we could show the four sort of scores, each one of these segments is the score, and the intensity of the color would tell how this particular school did on each of the four categories of scoring. Makes sense. We could also show an overall score by shading in the middle. What a cool idea. Unfortunately if you look at that icon, I'm just going to jot again without the shading, it also looks like a rifle scope.
Not a good idea for a visual to associate with schools. So being skeptical about your ideas, thinking critically, will help you weed out things that seem like great ideas, but really turned out to be so problematic. After your brainstorming, if you're still not happy with where you've ended up, go search on Behance, or Google images or Pinterest for great visualizations. And maybe you'll be inspired by someone else's work, with an idea that you can apply. It's okay to be inspired, but trust yourself first to come up with something fresh before you resort to this approach.
Finally and most importantly, you have to just do it. Creativity is a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it will get. Confidence will build, your creativity muscle memory will kick in. Allow yourself to be creative and you will get more creative. Which brings us back to my first tip, let go. Allow your inner four year old to come out, that version of you could envision all kinds of new and weird ideas without consequence.
In the listing portion of this episode I'll be talking with Nadieh Bremer who creates beautiful, and impactful, unique data visualization on a range of topics. I'm sure you love your in her perspective on being creative with visualizations.