Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Build Emerald City with Tableau!

When Tableau announced #VizAsArt a Data Visualization Art contest, I was thrilled and decided to participate in the contest. These are the two reasons why I decided to participate;
  • Data contests are fun and a good way to learn. This is how I actually got hooked onto Tableau with my first data visualization RunViz
  • I have an eye for the art and design, but was never good with my hand to create any art. Well with Tableau, as always, there are no excuses and thought to give it a shot.
I used Chicago 311 data from City of Chicago Data Portal http://data.cityofchicago.org for the contest.

In a typical data analysis project, data analysts will have the data and set of questions to answer or discover something from the data. Whereas, in a #VizAsArt projects, typically there are no requirements and all we have is the data and a White Canvas. Coming up with a non-functional art was challenging, but trust me it was fun and worth it.

How I came up with the “Emerald City” idea?

Idea for the “Emerald City” came to me while I working on a Customer Survey Project at work. Was looking to build a view to see the number of surveys done by channel and by the quarter. Dragged QUARTER (Date) continuous measure on to the column shelf, survey channel on to the row shelf, number of records to the color shelf, and QUARTER (Date) continuous to the Size shelf. The view ended up like below.

To make the marks appear clearly without overlapping, I reversed the size legend and the view ended up as below.

This looked to me like a sleeping Sears’s tower (or we call it Willis tower now). Immediately, my Tableau and artistic bulbs went off and my right brain was going crazy. I swapped Rows and Columns and it really looked like a building. 

That was the idea behind the Emerald City and really had no clue on how this would end up or look as the final product, I put on my construction hat on started to work.

Emerald City Under Construction

Dragged ‘Type of Service Request’ on to column shelf and ‘Week (Date)’ continuous on to row shelf, Number of records to color shelf, and finally Year (Date) discrete pill onto the size shelf to get a stacked bars. For the #VizAsArt contest, we were limited to use only four colors, so I changed the color pill to stepped colors and with two colors.  

I wanted to see how my building would look if I changed the Year (Date) to Quarter (Date) on the size shelf, BOOM! another building structure as below. Saved this as another sheet.

By changing mark types to circle creates a sheet. With mark type as Shape and with different types of shapes, and varying the Date on the size shelf to months, weeks, hours, etc. I ended up creating quite a few buildings, towers, etc. 


No two buildings are of the same height, filtered out some of the data randomly from some sheets and/or increase/decrease the axis in the other to get that effect. Now that we have few worksheets, played with the column filtering and kept one or two buildings on each worksheet, so when they are placed on the dashboard, adjacent buildings will not look the same. There you go...

Felt like something was missing from the art (remember I told you that I have an eye for the art), decided to add Sun to which would complete the art. 

I am deeply thankful to Dave Hart from InterWorks, EU for his Radial Bar Chart technique which I used to create the Sun. Check out his blog on how to create radial bar charts in Tableau.

Sun gave the finishing touch and I felt my #VizAsArt was complete.

Wait, every artwork should have a name and as the default color was green for the measures, I decided to call it “Emerald City”. 

Hope you like my art and I am sure you are ready to build your own towns, cities, skyscrapers, etc.

P.S I am already thinking about this year’s “Seasons greetings cards”. Star shapes make a nice Christmas tree :)

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Using the Chicago 311 data from years 2012 and 2013.