Meetup Recap: Andy Kirk presenting “The 8 Hats of Data Visualisation Design” on June 14, 2012

Many thanks to all that attended the first meeting of The Chicago Data Visualization Group (CDVG) on June 14, 2012 at TechNexus. Our group is off to a great start with attendance estimated 70-75 members. Andy Kirk of presented on the “The 8 Hats of Data Visualisation Design” in which he discussed the multiple roles and phases required to deliver a successful data visualization project.

The 8 Hats of Data Visualisation Design
“The 8 Hats of Data Visualisation Design” by Andy Kirk,

It’s a worthwhile topic as data visualization projects teams are often ad hoc and lacking clear authorities, delivery methodology, and appropriate skills. The consequence of this is something Andy has seen in his consulting with clients. In his post accompanying his slide he states,

“Too often we see examples of work where there has been an immediate rush to produce a pre-conceived design or an excitable technical solution without all the preparatory work undertaken beforehand and the discipline to treat the project with the thoroughness of thought required.”

Essentially, Andy is saying that some projects fail due to the imbalance of influence by a domain (design, technology) and the lack of diligence in execution. Systems projects avoid this with the adoption of mature and accepted delivery methodologies (Waterfall, Agile, etc). They define the roles and responsibilities of the project participants and indicate the required project activities that occur in each phase. The specificity, rigor, and governance required in these methodologies increase the likelihood of a successful project delivery. Visualization projects could similarly increase their likelihood of success with guidance from a standardized, lightweight, delivery methodology. A survey of the delivery approaches used in successful data visualization projects would reveal what works and provide the foundation of a data visualization delivery methodology. I’m researching if anyone has done that. Andy has made a terrific start. His “8 Hats” defines the roles and high level project phases.

Interestingly, improving the success of data visualization projects was not his purpose for this presentation. In his post, Andy discusses that his inspiration for identifying the 8 hats are the people he meets in his training course that feel they do not have the technology or design skills to work in data visualization. In identifying the 8 hats he is telling everyone that other attributes–such as domain expertise, leadership, communication, relationship skills–are also necessary. It is an encouraging read if you are just breaking in to data visualization and concerned about your skills.

Andy stuck around afterwards answering questions and talking with members individually. Many thanks to him for coming out to speak and helping us get our group off to a great start. Also, many thanks to Suzanne Hoffman and Tableau for sponsoring our meeting. We will be hearing more from them in the future. Take a look at their website. They have several tutorial videos and you can download a trial copy of Tableau.

Just a final mention about the CDVG. At the meeting, I introduced my intentions for our group. I’ve recapped that discussion on this CDVG blog. I encourage you to read what the group is about, how we will communicate, and when we will meet. I have many thoughts about what I’d like the group to be. The one thing I know for certain, however, is that the group needs the initiative and engagement of its members to really thrive. Take a look and give me your opinion.

Future meetings are in the works so stay tuned. Please contact me via the CDVG email if you are interested in getting involved in planning.



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