Looking for recommendations for an online course in data visualization
July 2, 2020 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I work in the financial industry in a role that requires me to create presentations to communicate data in a clear and easy-to-understand way. I have a strong background in data analysis, but little background in the way of data visualization. I struggle with coming up with creative ways to illustrate data. My workplace will pay for me to complete a course in data visualization and I'm interested in pursuing this. Can anyone recommend an online course that covers data visualization and effective ways to communicate data to management?
posted by NoneOfTheAbove to Education (12 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend Dr Stephanie Evergreen, and Cole Knafflic. Evergreen focuses a bit more on evidence-based design methods for clear communication, and Knafflic focuses a bit more on using design to tell a story. Both are strong leaders in the field.
posted by entropone at 8:06 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Edward Tufte does a one day seminar that's really good, but it doesn't look like he's got any scheduled or is doing an online version. But his books (that you get when you take the seminar) are kind of the gold standard for data visualization, and are an excellent source of ideas if you want to teach yourself.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:26 AM on July 2, 2020 [7 favorites]

Storytelling with Data is aligned well with what you're describing. I haven't experienced the workshop but I'm a big fan of their book, which I would recommend either way.

Also, seconding the Tufte books.
posted by mosst at 8:44 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Came in to recommend Tufte. There is nothing comparable.
posted by mumimor at 8:44 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

From what I understand the Tufte one-day course doesn't really teach you how to do things; it's more of a show, but a very good show.

Definitely read his books though.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:50 AM on July 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'd push back on the Tufte recommendation. He's certainly been influential and his books are nice to look at, but he also has a reputation for being long and hard on opinions and short on evidence or a collaborative spirit. And there are some pretty bad reviews of his workshops.

I think as a field, data vis has moved on to other problems beyond what Tufte focused on tackling - and these other problems (of storytelling, clear communication) are what some of the other people mentioned in the answers have focused their careers on.
posted by entropone at 9:13 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am bit biased, because I produced this online course "Information Design And Visualization Fundamentals" taught by by Graham Roberts who was the senior graphics editor at the New York Times at the time. I think it's pretty good.

It's a free course that also happens to be self-paced, so truthfully you will probably learn more with a teacher in a workshop setting so they can give you feedback on your project, but there's a lot of good material to round out your learning.
posted by jeremias at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

I've done the Tufte workshop. I left during the lunch break. The books are good, but the workshop is not at all what you're looking for.
posted by caek at 9:47 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

I recommend anything from Dave Paradi at thinkoutsidetheslide.com

He comes from a financial background and most of his training clients are in the financial industry or government, so most of his slide examples will be immediately applicable for you. Another thing I really like about him is that he doesn't rely on third-party PowerPoint plug-ins like so many dataviz people/sites do. He does this specifically because finance and government typically have high security needs and very locked-down IT. So he shows you how to do things using out-of-the-box Excel and PowerPoint.

The other thing I like is that he focuses on the *message* first as opposed to the gee-whiz pretty slides.

For a quick, inexpensive intro, I recommend his book, Select Effective Visuals. There is this amazing chart he has that categorizes messages and tells you what type of chart to use for that message-- that chart alone has been worth the purchase price for me, but then the rest of the book shows you examples of each chart and how to do it. If you like that, then you can take one of his courses.

I work in government/military... we're known for terrible slides. I started using the ideas in that book to make charts and I swear, it was like people thought it was witchcraft.

(Okay, that was long, sorry, but using this book helped me take on a quarterly update to the general that my bosses HATED, and the new charts got us through without the usual grilling, because he was able to get the message right away. It got me a seat at the big table, rockstar status with my bosses, and a performance raise.)
posted by scarnato at 9:47 AM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

+1 to Cole Knaffic/Storytelling with Data. There's a book, an online course, free weekly newsletters, and in the beforetimes, at least, Cole would come do in-person presentations. It's one of the best data- and information-related courses I've ever taken, and it made a significant difference in my ability to influence decision-makers at work.

Tufte is nice for more of a philosophical overview, but Storytelling with Data provides concrete, tactical advice and exercises.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:44 PM on July 2, 2020

This is a 4-day remote data viz seminar that may align with your analytical skills. Goes from conceptual framework to operationalizing things, all in R. It looks like the lessons are 3h/day with an additional 'office hour' each day.
posted by lulu68 at 1:27 AM on July 3, 2020

Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information was very influential for me. But the workshop doesn’t really add much to the book (and the other books mainly just add examples to that one). So read it, don’t bother with the workshop.

The book is also more about a philosophy/principles of data visualization (with lots of examples), rather than specific tools. But it helps a lot to think deeply about the philosophy and principles.

A slightly lateral suggestion: Also read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It’s another way of thinking about communicating visually.
posted by snowmentality at 2:12 PM on July 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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