Data Visualisation Workshop Resources

Learning about Visualisations through Making

This workshop involves making data visualisation designs drawing from the five design-sheet methodology with these activities structured as short iterations through the workshop.

But first let's look at our agenda represented as two alternative designs.

The first design is a hierarchical ordered list of agenda items with the time allocated, followign the suggested powerpoint format of heading and dot points:

Text agenda in dot points

The second design uses powerpoint's shapes and texts to emphasise the cyclical structure of the agenda:

Shapes and text combined

Creating these two designs is an exercise in divergent thinking to create visualisations elements in different ways of looking at the information. Evaluating these two designs helps identify what elements of the design align to the communication goals of he visualisation. This can help move to convergent thinking of a single, optimised design.

Activity: What is your idea you're going to visualise today?

Different idas are pasted on a whiteboard

Activity: Use paper and pencil to sketch your design to visualise your idea. Use the 5d template or another form your comfortable with.

Reflection: Take a step back and evaluate what's most successful and what's least successful in your design.

Activity: Use paper and pencil to sketch your design to create a new visualisation of your idea. Use the 5d template or another form your comfortable with.

Reflection: Take a step back and evaluate what's most successful and what's least successful in your design.

Activity: Show us what you got! Show your visualisation or just talk through what you've seen in your idea.


Finally, let's take a look at some information representations.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Virtruvian man shows us how diagramatic visualisations can be dense displays of mathematical information that can be processed with a macro and a micro reading:

This inspired the design of the opening credits of the tv show Star Trek Discovery. This 3d design of architectural style drawings are rendered as a 2d linear narrative telling the story of the series in a short timeframe:

This NYT visualisation of the reflections of 122 people across eight countries uses colour and shape to represent this data.
Snapshot of McKinsey's emotion archive

The colour palette from Plutchik's wheel of emotion helps us read this visualisation using colour as the key to the derived attribute of emotion.

This collaboration with education researcher, Carmel Mesiti, led us to create short form looping animations of individual text terms to invite viewers into the longer form of the book publication. This visualisation design started with the textile design by Erja Hirvi for the Marimekko design house and over iterations took its final form as discussed in our zoom chat:

We also played with an exploratory visualisation of the terms as blossoms on a wattle tree, building on the visual metaphor of a tree of knowledge and extending the use of the flora as flag signifying the language for each researchers' contribution to this international project. This particular iteration of the collaboration left this interactive D3 visualisation as an experiment that informed further iterations of the looping animations of individual terms.

This map of Ise shrine in Japan uses the distinctive shapes of the Japanese mountains to give us an understanding of where we stand. The overlay of the Japanese train systems helps the viewer find their access points for getting to the shrine and heading away to our next destination. The viewpoint is different to the traditional top looking down view of most geo-spatial representations, but its a viewpoint that makes sense of the view we see on the ground in Japan's mountainous topograhy.

Map of Ise shrine contextualised by mountain shapes

Barr's diagram of Cubism and Abstract Art uses spatial layout, an clearly labeled timescale on the y axis and arrows to represent the type of relationship. You can read more of Edward Tufte's analysisBarr's diagram of cubism and abstract art

It makes an interesting comparison with the dense representation of Rienhart's Diagram of Modern Art. I encourage you to read more about these two posters as information visualisation in Tufte's book 'Beautiful Evidence'.

Tree diagram of modern art in America

The 2005 movie Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, visualises the book as an interactive animated representation of the guide. This animations supercut shows how the visualisation uses 'breadcrumbs', a web design technique, to contextualise the entry within the whole book, using the colour and movement to direct our attention. These animations exemplify the Disney Twelve Principles of Animation, and particularly the principle of Appeal, the attribute that can fuel our emotional connection to an animated visualisation.

Hitchhiker's Guide (2005) Animations Supercut from Tod S on Vimeo.

Thanks so much to my fabulous fellow experimenters in this interactive approach to understanding visualisation design principles.

If you'd like to chat more about visualisation design and brainstorm how this could apply to your research project, please contact us at