Join the Creative Vizzing Workshop!

Please read the info below before joining. Workshops require commitment to help each other. This one is designed for minimal commitment, with opportunity to stretch it out over time. This workshop will take place from January through February - allowing plenty of time to submit and viz and submit / review feedback, and even share revisions.

This first workshop will be limited to 12 people, first come first serve (if there is enough interest, we may have multiple sessions simultaneously in the future). You don't need to make a new viz for the workshop, so don't worry about the time spent vizzing. It's recommended to spend at least 10 minutes for each participant, so roughly 2 hours providing feedback. You'll have one month to get this done, with plenty of reminders.

If you're interested, please use this form to sign up.

Questions? Reach out to @data_poetry on Twitter.
Creative workshops: artists helping other artistsWhile there are components of "correctness"…

Visual rhythms (part I): the function of rhythm in data viz

It's time to dive back into the namesake of this brand, data poetry. My posts have diverged from this for a bit, simply because Tableau Conference provided a number of ideas to response and discussion. However, the idea of poetry as a visually-analogous paradigm for data viz still has a lot of content for discussion. 

If I'm going to sustain any comparison between poetry and data visualization, we've got to talk about rhythm. No poetry workshop is complete without a discussion of rhythm, and no discussion of rhythm is complete without a discussion of We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks. Click play below for the reading (with about 90 seconds of awesome commentary, too). You can read along here

It's obvious why this poem is celebrated as the epitome of rhythm. The repetition of "We" establishes a sort of beat, and, if you read along, you noticed that the "We" is at the end of each line, breaking the sentence up across lines - which propels us from line …

When data is scary: the data story behind the birth of my son

He was due December 10th, but my wife woke me up at 4 AM on November 29th: her water had broke. The online birth date probability calculator I'd found (and recreated in Tableau) had only listed a 25% chance the baby would be born this early, and while I'd love to say we were completely prepared, it'd probably be more accurate to say we were 25% prepared. However, our birthing class (of which we had one of four classes remaining) provided us clear instructions, so we called the doctor, packed our bags, and drove to the hospital. 

Now, it's important to note that we'd had our last obstetrics appointment just 12 days prior, and everything had looked fine. Our doctor had repeatedly referred to our pregnancy as "picture perfect". However, when we got to the hospital, we found out that picture had dramatically changed - and the scary data began. 

The birthCheck out this chart below - there's a lot of data here, and it's being updated about every second: 


The power of a word: Ludovic's IronViz "weather memories.."

A perhaps blasphemous confession: I wasn't all that excited to watch the Iron Viz at Tableau Conference. It was my first conference, so I was already overwhelmed. I'm not a big fan of watching sports or people playing video games. I hate timed-based performance and large crowds. Add in the fact that, due to a health illness, my diet was restricted to the granola bars I'd brought (New Orleans culinary arts fit pretty squarely on my "do not touch list"), and I was tired and a wee bit grumpy. I really just wanted to go back to my hotel and sleep before I had to face a crowd of 17,000 in the Superdome that night. 

But I'd really fallen in love with Ludovic's work over the last few months, and he seemed like such a genuine person online that I wanted to be there and cheer him on, if just in spirit. (Disclaimer: by no means am I trying to make a comparison to the other Iron Viz contestants - they did fantastic work and also seem like great people. I just had mor…

Art Talks: Tableau Conference 2018

Art talks. Art is a vehicle for discussion of and reaction to other arts. For example, Richard Prince, in 1977, sparked a conversation about the role of photography in art by rephotographing a famous photograph. By itself, the photo just looks like an imitation - but art history provides a much bigger context around the way Prince's piece Untitled (Cowboy) served as a critique on what makes a photograph different from the thing being photographed (FYI, Time lists the imitation as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Images of All Time). By itself, the art looks like nothing more than a cheap ripoff - but it's the conversation the artist - and the art piece - is having that is important. 

One of my favorite books is The Last Avant Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets. This book is about a movement in poetry epitomized by five poets: John Ashbury, Barbara Guest, Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch. The interesting aspect of this book is how each poet influe…

Data art: the critical shift in your role in data visualization

Recently, my father-in-law asked a question all too familiar to those of us working with data: "So what exactly is it that you do, again?" (I've been married for 7 years, so he's heard it a number of times already). When I told him my title is "Creative Director, Analytics", he replied, "Well, that seems like an oxymoron". 

(Warning: hyperlink overload below - but I encourage you to explore all the articles, videos, and resources. There's a ton of great information in there)

But the world of data visualization has moved beyond the realm of an analyst just building a quick bar chart (or exploding 3D pie chart) in Excel or PowerPoint. That still exists, for sure - but the boundaries of what we do have significantly expanded into spaces typically reserved for more traditional arts like poetry, painting, photography, dance, etc. It's a later paradigm shift in this industry that really excites me, and something I spoke about in my recent talk at …

Know the rules! (so you can break them)

There was a common teaching theme in all my creative writing and photography workshops: "Know the rules, so you can break them". The idea is that there are rules (we might call them best practices in our work), things like grammar and syntax in writing, and exposure and contrast in photography. Every art has their rules, and these rules help ensure good work.
But the great work breaks these rules.
For example, take e.e. cummings, a poet that appeared to have a broken shift or caps lock key, and his punctuation looks like typos - but he uses these things to create a rhythm, a cadence, and a voice. Or the photographer Weegee, whose works are often a blend of too-dark backgrounds and overexposed foregrounds - but his photographs accomplish a very creepy and powerful feel.

Note that it isn't that these artists didn't follow the rules; that's too passive. They knew the rules, and broke them intentionally. The broken rules are what makes their art great. They are what …