June 12, 2019

Extreme Curiosity is the Trait that Matters in Data Visualization

Data visualization projects are great for designers who are obsessed with learning and have extreme curiosity.

Data Visualization

I often say I put in 100 hours so you only need to put in 10 minutes to my clients when describing value on product design engagements or financial consulting deliverables (like dashboards and tools). The thought here is that I spend time in the mud, the minutia, the mess, in order to best communicate some concept in the form of a designed deliverable be it a tool, a product, or a visualization.

I put in 100 hours so you only need to put in 10 minutes

Empathy is discussed at length in the design community, and usually for good reasons, but I'd argue design is most effective when the person or team behind it has an insatiable curiosity—more so than empathy.

Most of my work has been in the agency/consultancy setting, so my opinion will, of course, reflect that; but one of the most critical pieces of my success was that every project is built on institutional knowledge of the business, product, and domain space. If you don't have the energy to become an expert in a short amount of time, this type of work gets exhausting and you may find yourself cutting corners.

Data visualization has always been a part of my professional life, but recently it's become my main focus. And curiosity is a huge reason to blame for this. Not only is curiosity important for understanding nuances in the context of an industry or a new topic, but for looking at the data in an intimate way.

One of my favorite activities is to play with a dataset and spit out a ton of different chart types (both by hand-sketching and with code) to get a more intimate understanding. It turns out this activity is quite valuable—be it for your client or the reader. If you're good at what you do, the consumer of your work will be confident that you put in the time and explored all the other options before settling on the right one.

Building trust with the end-user, client, or reader takes time and is often the most difficult part of any production. Being naturally curious is a necessary first step—one that's hard to teach.