Illusory disparity
Peripherals 1

Tricks of the trade 1

Handmad1From time to time, I get queries about what software I use to create junkart charts.  This is my first post on the wide-ranging topic, which I shall take up again.

My first rule of thumb is: develop the concept first, then worry about tools. 

I believe the software question is misplaced.  One should never allow tools to get in the way of one's imagination.

Like an artist, I carry a sketchbook in which I draw many versions of charts for each data set I come across.  Once I see each version, I can better judge what works, and what doesn't.  As I sketch, I'll sometimes find insights in the data I haven't notice before, which will prompt another round of sketches.  Until I finalize the concept, I don't think about software.  Until this point, it's as primitive as it gets.

What has all these got to do with the Madonna wall advertisement?Handmad2 Notice the artists standing on the crane in the lower left corner.  I was walking in New York while thinking about this post, and thought what a perfect example of sketching, or developing the concept.  The artists weren't deciding what and how to paint the ad while the crane scaled the ten-storey building; they already had it sketched out, both on paper and on the wall itself.  Here is the blown-up image of Madonna's unfinished hand.  The sketchmarks were clearly visible.  So next time you make a chart, try making sketches first!  


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Very good idea. I recently got a Tablet PC, so I can actually put my sketches in electronic form for posterity before deciding how to clean up the presentation.


I like going back to the data collection step, or even to the business issue step and asking what information will be persuasive and how can that be presented. That can drive my data collection (the right data for the right chart for the right question) and save me grief on the back end of a project.

Jeremy Kandah

This reminds me of a talk I had with a animator at Disney. He said the medium doesn't matter at all. Currently we have 3d animated movies, but the technology means nothing. It's all about the story. In our case, the story is data visualization.


I find in my consulting business that I must take not to let preconceived notions affect my presentation of the data. Sometimes we tend to try to force the data to tell the story that we reason should be told.

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