Data Visualisation for Social Research and Business Intelligence

The challenge for Week 41 of Makeovemonday was to improve upon an original data visualisation published by looking at adult obesity rates in the US by state between 2011 and 2015.

The original visualisation is a choropleth map with a corresponding trend chart:

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 14.13.11

What did I like?

  • Clear main and sub title (includes the definition of obesity)
  • Interactivity: as you hover over each state, it highlights the corresponding trend on the line chart
  • Engaging colour palette, which highlights the regional patterns
  • Ability to filter by region
  • Ability to filter via the interactive timeline slider
  • Colour coded tooltips

What did I dislike?

  • Choropleth maps can easily be misinterpreted due to the spatial distortion of differing state sizes (i.e larger states stand out more, smaller states stand out less)
  • Lacks a narrative; it is up to the reader to interpret the story
  • The line chart is overly cluttered with gridlines and markers for my personal taste

What were my goals?

  • Maintain the clear titles / sub-titles
  • Employ a hexagon tiled map to equalise the size of each state
  • Add a brief narrative, adjacent to the data
  • Maintain some degree of interactivity over time
  • Remove the trend lines to simplify the view

Here is my first makeover:

US Adult Obesity Rates

I had sourced the design template for the hex map from Tableau Zen Master Matt Chambers. He kindly suggested I use an inverted hexagon shape as this would line up more neatly.  Here is my final makeover:

US Adult Obesity Rates Inverted Hex.png

Benefits of this approach:

  • Each state is equally represented in size, so no one state stands out more or less prominently than any others
  • By removing the line chart, it is a simplified version, which may be easier to view
  • Interactivity allows the reader to see how the pattern changes over time
  • Colours show regional clusters effectively

Challenges of this approach:

  • Each state’s exact location has been moved to allow for placement, which may be confusing
  • Trend lines are more appropriate for interpreting change over time than colours on a map
  • Colours show which states are generally higher or lower rates, but not in which order

The interactive version is available on Tableau Public.

Further reading:

  • The Big Book of Dashboards (Cotgreave, Wexler & Shaffer, 2017): p231 – 232 on hex maps versus choropleth maps.

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The challenge for Week 40 of Makeovemonday was to improve upon an original data visualisation published by the Financial Times looking at British economic growth since the Brexit Vote.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 15.30.37

What did I like?

  • Clear sub-title
  • Feint gridlines work well
  • Coloured line chart allows the UK to stand out compared to the rest of the G7 countries
  • Nice clean design

What could be improved?

  • The main title is ambiguous in terms of the type of growth
  • UK could be colour coded the same as the chart
  • The legend detracts attention
  • It is unclear what the y-axis is showing as there is no axis label
  • The dates on the x-axis are inconsistently labelled
  • There is no explicit story to guide the reader
  • There is data missing for the other G7 countries for the latest quarter

 My goals:

  • Colour code the main title so as to remove the need for a legend
  • Highlight Britain in context of the G7 countries
  • Include a main title that focusses my analysis by asking a question
  • Expand the field of analysis to identify longer term trends
  • Tell a compelling story to engage the reader: that whilst real GDP growth has declined since the Brexit Vote, it could either be part of an annual cycle or because of the fall in the rank of growth in the G7; part of a longer term decline.

 Benefits of this approach:

  • Line charts are an appropriate display for long term trends
  • The trend for Britain pops out from the crowd by highlighting it and greying out the other countries
  • By placing the analysis along the timeline, it makes the chart easy to read from left to right

 Challenges of this approach:

  • To tell the story in small text boxes, which align to the timeline and answer the main question set in the title.

The interactive version is available on Tableau Public.

GBR GDP Growth Adjusted



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This is a data visualisation comparing restricted diets across the Globe.

The aim of this data visualisation is to improve upon an original as featured on for week 39.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.09.42

What I liked:

  • The engaging colours
  • Icons are recognisable
  • Clear title / sub-title
  • Comparison of continents

What I disliked:

  • The icons are distracting
  • Too many colours at once
  • Bendy bars are not accurate compared to straight bars
  • I would prefer to compare Global Regions rather than diets

My goals:

  • To keep it clear and simple
  • The chart is a connected dot plot, designed for a mobile phone
  • I wanted to utilize interactivity to allow the user to compare each Global region to the Global average via a drop down filter.  The dashboard title, chart colour and tooltips automatically update depending upon which region is selected

Benefits and challenges:

The benefits of this approach are that it supports a quick at a glance view of the most popular dietary choices.

The challenge is to incorporate all the detail of a data visualisation on a reduced scale.

The interactive version is available on Tableau Public.

Restricted Dietary Requirements Around the Globe



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