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Viz Improvements and iterations

When you set to create a viz and during the process,
you realise there are several improvements you can make,
even after publishing it on Tableau Public.

This week’s #MakeoverMonday is all about James Patterson’s books at Seattle Library. The dataset shows the title of each book, year of publication and month and year for chechouts of each book at the library. The dataset is pretty straight forward and only had to work a little on formatting and cleaning the Year of Publication.

This is the original visualisation published by Andy Kriebel:

My original idea was to show how long it took to each book in years, to get into the library but then realised there was perhaps, not a solid story behing this idea.

My second approach was to show a running sum of all checkouts over the years which, originally, was simple to do but then again, it lacked the stroy I wanted to tell.

I then remembered a video tutorial by Andy Kriebel about “aligning time” in Tableau and Stephen Curry being the top 3-point scorer when you compare him with other players on their first, second, third (etc) year at the NBA. By the way, you can watch Andy’s tutorial video here.

I realised right there that “that was the story” I wanted to tell, comparing book checkouts on their first, second, third (etc) years at the library irrespective of the year they had been introduced to the library.

The next part shows the first attemps and ideas and how it was evolving to the final viz and even so, still not 100% happy with it, I set to make more changes this morning !

Original idea & first drafts

First Draft

This first draft shows the basic idea behind the visualisation. The Y-Axis shows the running sum of checkouts and the X-Axis shows the number of years each book has been in the library. Also, you find placeholders for title at the top and datasource credits at the bottom of the graph.

The first two insights I got from this viz was:

1- The book NYPD Red 3 was the book with most checkouts in half the time at the library as other books.

2- There were six books that have been at the library for 15 years and thought it was good to mention and add the story that called it the “15 Years Club”


This second draft shows title changing colour to #354560 which, in the end, will be title’s final colour. Also, not easy to spot, but this seconver version shows changes in the X-Axis and we start to see the final spaces each component will have in the viz.

Colour Palette … this is the colour palette used for the viz, inspiration from a “19th Century Futon Cover” seen in a design book at the Victoria & Albert Museum (inspiration is everywhere!):

<color-palette name=”Futon Cover 19th Century” type=”regular” >

THIRD Draft 

– This third draft shows the background colour #859CA6 at 15% transparency.

– Title Typography“Toppan Bunkyu Gothic”, which as you will see later on, it turned out to be a problem as Tableau Public couldn’t render the font correctly when seeing the viz on browsers like Apple Safari and Internet Explorer.

– Sub-title has also been added at the top-right of the viz providing a little more information on what the visualisation is all about. Colour for sub-title is , making a nice contrast with both, title and background.


This fourth draft shows some improvements and additions such as sub-title moved into one line to top-left of the vis and the addition of James Patterson’s signature taken from free stock image website.

As you can see on all previous drafts, I have James’ surname wrong as “Petterson” which was soon fixed before its publication on Tableau Public.


So, after correcting Patterson’s surname, I set to get the final touches in place by adding some information about NYPD Red 3, Patterson’s most checked out book at Seattle Library.

Also added labels to the second and third most checked out books and data source credits at the bottom of the viz.

Finals checks to make sure everything was aligned, no typo errors (there is always one!), final check to tooltips and … it was ready to publish !

3 … 2 … 1 … hit the Publish button !


The following day, when seeing the published viz once again, I realised something was not right, something was not working on the overall design of the visualisation. It kept bothering me the issues with typography and Tableau Public not rendering the title font correctly. Also, realised that the background colour was too light and Patterson’s signature looked more like doodle or a spot rather than he’s signature.

Thanks to the new edit capabilities of Tableau Public, I changed the title font to a safer option (once again!) like Georgia font and darkened the background to #859CA6 at 25% transparency and … voila, now the viz looked the way I wanted !

Here is the final version of the visualisation and the main take aways is, “don’t settle for something is not 100% what you wanted to create … improve, work on it, iterate until you get the visualisation you really wanted !”

Thanks for reading and getting this far … see you soon !

About The Author

Pablo Gomez

Originally from Argentina, Pablo co-founded I FOR IDEAS, a Branding and Marketing company specialised on graphic design and digital content. After working in data analysis and reporting for over a decade, he was introduced to Tableau in early 2013. Always fascinated by Data and Graphic Design, Tableau was the perfect platform to combine both of his passions.

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