This week I got the privilege to attend visFest this week which was held in Chicago. It was a surreal experience getting to meet data visualization influencers such as Mike Bostock and Shirley Wu. I also getting to meet people that I talk to in the D3 Slack group was also unreal.
Going to visFest gave me a new perspective on what data visualizations are and how to approach creating them.
My approach to data visualizations where if you have data that deals with time create a line chart. If you have data that is categorical create a bar chart. Which is fine for learning the fundamentals of data vis. But there is also this creative aspect of creating data visualizations.
A lot of data visualization start out with paper and pencil. Many data visualization start with sketches and refine them until they are satisfied they have communicated the story they wanted to tell. Both Shirley Wu and Valentina D’Efilippo carry sketchbooks around to gain inspiration and experiment with ideas.
Their talks inspired to get out there and develop my own style of storytelling.
What did I learn in day 1
Susie Lu talk was amazing it was about different layers of abstraction in her data visualizations
Alex Wein highly theoretical talk that went above my head — learned that set theory is the basis/foundation for all math
Amelia Wattenberger SVG workshop was so much fun. I’m glad that I was able to part take in it. I learned about the use function which makes it easy to duplicate any SVG. I also got this dope SVG cheat sheet from her.
Amelia talked about the Dear Data project were to friends sent postcards through the mail of their data visualizations and it inspired me to find a pen pal during the conference. I’ll probably create a blog post on that during the future.
What did I learn in day 2
It was the day of the unconference. On this day I mostly hopped around different discussions. Here are some notes on the ones that resonated with me the most.
Practicing data visualization skills with bite-sized projects
This topic hit home for me. I am mostly a self-taught programmer and its hard to know what direction you should go next. It’s not like school when there is someone giving you validation that the learning path you are on is correct.
So here three tips that are helping me so far:
- Keeping it simple — I try not to be creative when I’m thinking about projects to come with. Reverse engineering someone else’s project is a great way to learn new concepts.
- Deadlines — I am a person that works better with a deadline looming. I tend to give myself two weeks to complete a project.
- Consistency — Consistency is a big key. It takes a while to create a flow. You find out what works and what does not work. And the smallest changes can take up to months to happen.
A great article about learning how to breakdown goals is an article from Ryder Caroll the creator of the Bullet Journal System. (https://medium.com/better-humans/how-to-break-down-your-goals-into-sprints-689af9e97c52)
Diversity, inclusion, and equity in data visualization spaces
This discussion session was raw and open. One of the main takeaways that I got from this session is everyone wants to be represented. As someone who is a minority in the tech landscape, it is always nice to see other women and people of color. I notice that the data science conferences that I attend have a decent amount of women who attend, speak and organize these spaces. Many other tech conferences that I attend barely have female organizers or speakers. After the session, I am going to try to make an effort to give back and speak out more in order to be seen. I want to let other women of color know you are not alone in this industry.
Overall I had a great time at visFest. I hope that I will be able to attend next year so I can create another cool conference badge.