Week 1. Crayons at the ready!

by Lorna Brown

After an exciting, intense and awesome week at the data school, here is my very first blog:

Day 1: Introduction- paper and crayons at the ready

Tuesday was Day 1 at the data school. What a day. The day started with formal introductions from everyone, who they are, what they did and an interesting fact. The morning consisted of introductions to the data school visions and software set up. Before I knew it, it was lunch time. The morning went fast.

The afternoon comprised of a more in-depth introduction into Tableau. Looking at top tips and tactics, finding the design and intent of the analysis, whether it’s analytical or abstract, or explanatory or exploratory. Using this information we then had to look at a previous visualisation, explain what was good, not so good, and what the intent of the viz was. We then described what could be done to improve it. Following this, we learnt about how visual analysis is needed to find stories using comparisons, trends and patterns, and relationships.

The next task we were told to shut the laptops, grab an A2 piece of paper and some crayons. Time to let the creative juices flow. We were asked to recreate this data table into a visualisation.

Day 1

We split into pairs and worked out the best way to show this data. All pairs came up with similar ideas on how best to represent the data, also with a few different directions based on having additional data. The main idea was a line graph to represent a time series. We then also included what we would do if we had additional data

Day 1

Overall day 1 was a great day and meeting such a good team. I am looking forward to the next 4 months


HINT: Never use yellow crayon on white paper, it doesn’t show clearly.



Day 2: Getting used to this paper and crayons lark

Wednesday was all about going back to basics. What makes an effective chart? There are a range of different effects, you can use on a chart to make the reader aware of the story. It is important to understand what you are trying to show with your chart and you don’t want to create a false positive. What I mean by that is; when creating a bar chart, if the y-axis is not set at 0 it will create a bigger gap between the bars due to the nature of the y-axis, this could be very misleading. It will show you what you think you need to see, but actually when you put the y-axis back to 0 there will be very little change between the groups. Therefore making it very misleading.

The second part of the morning was reintroducing the different data types, data relationships and chart types. This also included best practices for those particular charts. Next was time for paper and crayons. We had to look at a viz and see if it was the best viz series, correct chart type and if it was readable. I was looking at the ‘When Genius’ slept’ (see below). It was decided that the graph looked quite visual, however reading into the graph was quite confusing. When a genius on the outside circle slept 10pm to 6am looked completely different to someone on the inside who slept the same hours.

Day 2

We decided to change this to a bullet graph with limited colours. This made the new graph more comparable than before. The boxed at the end of the lines represent the pictures of the ‘genius’.

Day 2

The final note of the day was about colour. Colour should only be used to enhance and clarify. If colour does not add anything to the viz don’t use it. When using colour to represent good and bad, I would normally use green and red. However after this session I realised this is not a good idea. Those that are Red/Green colour blind cannot distinguish between the two colours. These colours should therefore be avoided when creating a viz.


Once the learning had finished, the welcome party began. Meeting past data school members and the wider team from the information lab lead to interesting conversations.


HINT: Never use red and green together in a viz, test colours through colorbrewer2.org to check colours suitable for those that are colour blind.


Day 3: Getting started on Tableau.

Today we actually opened Tableau. Learning the basics all over again but in more detail. Being taught by someone is much easier than trying to learn things yourself. Zen Master Andy is great at what he does and how he teaches. I think one of the best ways of learning how to create a chart is by recreating a known chart. For example, Andy made a graph and we all had to recreate the graph in as little clicks as possible.

Day 3 (2)

Once we’d done a few charts, it was time to find out what work we had to remake by the Friday. Majority of us got our very first interview viz, mine was on gymnastics (in a later blog). We asked for feedback in what we can to in order to improve. Although when looking back I knew I had to change a few things with what I have learnt over the past 3 days. Having extra feedback enabled me to change a few things on my viz. However, I have now re-established my love/hate relationship with Tableau.


HINT: Understanding the difference between blue and green pills will help you in the long run


Day 4: Makeover Day

Last day of the first week, hands on with Tableau. The focus of today was preparing our makeovers in time for presenting at 3pm. There was a few changes I needed to make to my viz and then decided what I was going to present on.

The size of vizzes are important. If a viz fits nicely on your screen, it may not fit correctly on another screen (due to resolution on screens).

The presentation went well and the makeover will shortly follow this blog, once I have updated following further feedback. (This is the old viz)

Day 4


HINT: Make sure the size of your dashboard/storyboard is not too big in order to have to scroll or zoom out to see the full viz.



Week one is over. Feelings over the week ranged from excited to overwhelming to I can actually do this. I have learnt so much over the past 4 days, imagine what I will have learnt by the end of 4 months. These prospects excites me.