The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are upon us, so Zen Master Rody Zakovich offered up his Winter Olympics viz for Makeover Monday week 7. I personally found it to be a fantastic viz, so I was curious to see how the Makeover Monday Community would take the data and make something different and/or better.

Before I get into the lesson, two quick shout outs. First, to Charlie Hutcheson for stepping in for this week’s Viz Review and allowing me to have some more free time with my family while we were on holiday. Second, congratulations to my Makeover Monday partner and great friend, Eva Murray, for attaining Zen Master status this year! A truly deserved recognition for all of the work she puts into the Tableau Community, for her endless energy, and for her continued brilliance with Tableau. You can read more about the new Tableau Zen Masters here.



Way back in February 2008, Stephen Few wrote an article titled Practical Rules for Using Color in Charts. If you haven’t read this, you should. The article does what it says; it provides us with some basic rules for using color. Let’s look at an example that Eva and Charlie reviewed on this week’s Viz Review and see how we can apply two of Few’s rules:

Created by: Shivani Sharma 


Rule #3: Use color only when needed to serve a particular communication goal.

In Shivani’s viz, what is the communication goal of the colors being used? We don’t really know. Each chart uses its own color palette and colors are repeated across the charts when the color doesn’t mean the same thing.

Paraphrasing from Few:

We should only add color to an information display to achieve something in particular. Don’t use color to decorate the display. Dressing up a graph only distracts people from what’s important—the data—in an information display.

Rule #4: Use different colors only when they correspond to differences of meaning in the data.

For this rule, let’s look at each chart separately. Starting on the upper left, Shivani has displayed the medal rank over year for four countries.Which country is most important? The colors are hard to distinguish from each other, making it difficult to track them across the view. Use color to highlight what’s important and mute the other colors. The reader needs to know at a glance the focus and goal of the chart.

On the bottom left, we see the count of medals by country. The colors chosen for the medals are Tableau defaults. Use colors that are associated with the object they represent. In this case, using gold, silver and bronze colors would be more meaningful and would fit with the theme.

On the right, we have a bar chart split by gender. What do the different colors on the bars mean? Nothing. The labels on the x-axis, though cut off and not all displayed, tell us what the bars represent. In this case, a single color would suffice.



As we’re scrolling through hundreds of vizzes and tweets each week, we don’t have time to click on all of them to ensure we understand what they are telling us. For me, I prefer simplicity. And when you combine detailed analysis with simplification, then you’ve really done something good.

Consider this viz by Nish Goel:

Nish uses two simple colors that group the countries into two sets. This makes it easy for me to know that each set of countries mean something different. He uses the same color in the title and subtitle as he does for the red subset. This help me know what the color represents without needing a color legend.

From an analytical perspective, Nish uses reference lines to indicate to use where the intersection occurs. The lines move as the user adjusts the slider as does the subtitle text. A Pareto chart isn’t easy to communicate well; Nish has accomplished that here. He’s made a complicated chart simple and easy to understand.