As a Business Intelligence professional, David McCandless’s TED talk about the beauty of data visualization really struck a resonant chord for me. I aspire to be a designer who has a solid background in programming and database concepts, but I don’t find many opportunities to work on data visualization at my 8-to-5, as I’m focused mainly on straight-up reporting.

Last year, in lieu of one of my normal and customary Year In Review blog posts, I created a series of graphs that represented the easily-trackable data in my life: weight loss, music listening habits, miles walked, photos taken, things like that. In going back and re-reading my past Years In Review this week, I realized that my “infographic” review didn’t actually give as much information about what I’d done during the course of the year. It didn’t do an effective job of presenting the highlights like I’d previously done in verbal form. The idea had been along the lines of “show, don’t tell,” but it didn’t manage to do either very well.

Looking back objectively at my 2009 Year In Review, here’s what the graphs and numbers tell me:

  • I went to Japan. I walked a lot one of the days I was there (14 miles), and I took lots of pictures.
  • When I ate out (back at home), I had mainly Asian food (Chinese, Japanese, Korean).
  • I tried to lose weight, but didn’t do very well.
  • I took lots of pictures. Some of them were with my iPhone. Most of them were from vacations and trips, including Japan and Chicago.
  • I listened to music, and my musical taste was stuck squarely in the ’90s, for the most part.

That’s kind of lame. I can do better than that.

With these two experiences rolling about in my brain, I’ve decided to try creating personal infographics over the course of the year, but keep the standard prose-style Year In Review for next year.

Practice is the only way to learn and improve, be it creating data visualizations, or writing, or photographing. We’ll see how long it takes me to successfully find my own style, and to successfully identify and convey relationships between datasets.

2 thoughts on Confluence

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  1. Isn’t that always the struggle with making all the mush in your brain intelligent and logical? I’m taking a grad level course right now (so I can be an instructor at a local university) and am struggling getting my thoughts down on paper. I’m also finding that lack of practice (ie I haven’t ‘written’ since I finished grad school in 06) doesn’t help either!

  2. I look forward to your graphical representation of 2010. Color me f’ing disturbed if I saw a graphical printout of my life for 2010. “Here’s how wide I am as compared to last year”, etc.