Incremental Improvements

Having made this visualisation from scratch now 3 times over I thought it deserved a second follow up blog. This blog will reflect on some of the changes over time, and hopefully showcase some means of thinking when it comes to effective radial design.

Hi all,

Hope everyone is getting back into the groove of things now the summer period comes to a close. It is the start of darker and shorter days here in London. Something that takes a little bit of mental adjustment, but on the whole quite excited for this remaining quarter of the year.

So where to begin with this blog?

Back in November 2020. I made this viz below, on Grand Slam Results. Truth be told I was pretty apprehensive about even posting it back then. Turns out someone in the Tableau team were kind enough to give it VOTD.

I remember these times fondly, life was good making random radial charts with no significant meaning. (I still feel I live in those times now, just tread more carefully.)

Since then I made over this chart in February 2021.

In fact, I even blogged about how to make it, with an appropriately named title “Why you shouldnt make this radial graph!” in which I proceed to explain exactly how to make the chart.

And most recently, I remade the viz a second time, shying away from that dark background that I couldn’t resist using for the good part of a year. This visual looks at 25 years of data instead of the original 20. You can view it in full here.

So really, this blog will be a progress review of the changes made and why I think there are small improvements with each one.

Okay, so where to begin with the review. The above isn’t bad.

  • We have a ranked order of grand slam winners during the period. I like the colour call out of the three main players.
  • The subtle black fading background is quite nice.
  • Perhaps the others could be grouped given they aren’t a focal point but it does act as a good reference of how unlikely it is for those outside of the ‘big three’ to win.
  • The colour highlighting easily showcases from roughly 2003 that three players dominate the grand slam.

What do I now instantly want to change?

  • I can’t get over my horrible handwriting though. So that had to go.
  • The typography has to change too, not the best choice and doesn’t really fit the sport theme.
  • The calculation next to the players isn’t correct in the tooltip as I have years popping through on the circles.
  • It’s difficult to really see which tournaments correspond to which player as there is no highlighting feature.
  • The grey text i’m indifferent on, I think it blends okay into the black, I’d be interested to put it through a contrast checker though.
  • That text at the bottom of the chart needs moving. I feel there was no consideration given to space nor alignment. See the pink below.

So around comes 2021, and I think to give it another shot.

Now I’m pretty happy with this one.

  • It has a key! That is always useful.
  • Some better consideration went into aligning the text, with the ranking, and the key.
  • Aligning of the year text radially looks a lot better.
  • Again, we are highlighting the dominance of the big three, but this time greying out other players.
  • We are introducing context of where players are ranked at the end of the year. This means we can carry that knowledge forward to see if the player won a Grand Slam in those years.

So what didn’t sit well with me this time?

  • The key, I really didnt like the right hand radial aspect. I think it looks quite ugly and thick.
  • I called the first section seed ranking. In fact, it’s just year end ranking. Seed is specific for tournaments.
  • Because Dominic Thiem ended up in rank 3, I wasn’t sure how to group the end part of the visual. I received good feedback that there was no colour legend specific to him. Perhaps this should have been a grey line.
  • The curves of the lines are better. (They are sigmoid functions) but I didn’t really like how they spread, it doesn’t feel smooth enough. It’s a little bit jagged mushroom like.
  • Again no hover functionality to really highlight the individual players.

So here we are. Coming up to the end of the US Open 2022, and I’ve created my Grand Slam visual for a third time.

So what’s new this time?

  • Well I think my key is cleaner in design, I like the lightness to the design.
  • Alignment has much improved, although resembles roughly what was in the previous one.
  • We have new rows of data inserted. I think this was important to reference when Roger turned pro, and then the overlap with Rafa and Novak. It adds the element of competitiveness against one another, and the rise of each of them.
  • The chord strings feel SO much cleaner thanks to Brian Moores blog, found here.
  • Of course, I used Tableaus newer functionality to be able to layer multiple charts and marks on the same sheet allowing for greater creative freedom in builds.
  • The colour background has changed, I’m going through a bit more of a lighter colour palette phase but think it works well. Really I started to blend the colour palette with the one used in my Iron Viz 2021 entry. The green was overwhelming in the other two vizzes, now there is much more equal strength in colour against the lighter background, and the added hover ability helps focus the chart to each of the specific players.
  • I’m pretty happy with some of the reference lines put in. I think they help frame the visual and the key nicely.

So will I build this a fourth time over?

  • 100% no, life is moving on. But I could, as there are things that could be changed.
  • The biggest challenge faced was because Roger no longer appears in the Top 5. To find a way to balance the curve of the chart to reach the edge of the year ranking chart became quite problematic. Especially when I wanted to have the bump chart sit middle aligned to the chord. Luckily I left my workbook with start points that I can adjust.
  • I’d consider the colours again, for some reason I think a burnt orange would have worked well?
  • Perhaps I could add some supplementary information on each of the Grand Slams won. Roger dominates on grass, Rafa on clay and Novak on hard court, that’s not really apparent from the design of the chart.
  • It would have been cool to call out finals where each of the individuals appear, especially against one another.

Anyway, that’s just my step through thoughts. Overall it’s quite exciting making over your own visual, especially when you’ve had time to digest the information, re-think what is important to highlight, and grow both in technical skills, but also visual design theory over time.

More chords, I say.

LOGGING OFF,
CJ

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