Nicole Lachenmeier and Darjan Hil’s new book, Visualizing Complexity: Modular Information Design Handbook, focuses on deconstructing data encodings into fundamental elements to create effective visualizations. They take an exciting and hands-on approach to data visualization design for their own work and how they teach design to others. In this week’s episode of the podcast, our conversation highlights Nicole and Darjan’s journey in data design and how they stress the importance of deliberate thinking, manual effort, and critical analysis in their design process.

While our conversation often focuses on the details of the book, we also take a larger perspective to data visualization and discuss the need to simplify data for better comprehension through hands-on visualization workshops and the significance of selecting appropriate charts. We explore the complexity of chart selection and focus on breaking down elements of charts and graphs for better design. Nicole and Darjan talk about their collaborative process of writing a book that effectively integrates visuals and text along with the challenges they encountered and the positive feedback they’ve received.

Topics Discussed

  • Authors’ Journey in Data Design. Nicole and Darjan share their extensive experiences in the field and their emphasis on deliberate thinking, manual effort, and critical analysis as pillars of the design process.
  • Understanding Basic Visualizations. We discuss the importance of mastering fundamental visualization techniques and using manual sketching as a vital tool for improving design skills and fostering creativity.
  • Selecting Appropriate Charts. We talk about the complexities inherent in choosing the right chart for your data and how their approach can help you break down chart elements into elementary pieces.
  • Book Creation and Integration. The authors share their collaborative process of merging visuals and text in their new book


Guest Bio

Nicole Lachenmeier is an award-winning Swiss information designer, data visualization educator, and book author based in Basel, Switzerland. She co-founded Superdot Studio with Darjan Hil and co-authored Visualizing Complexity: Modular Information Design Handbook. Focused on developing both physical and digital data experiences, she enhances human understanding and engagement.

Darjan Hil is a European information designer, data visualization educator, and book author based in Basel, Switzerland. He co-founded Superdot with Nicole Lachenmeier and co-authored Visualizing Complexity: the Modular Information Design Handbook. Darjan is the initiator of the well known international event series called On Data And Design and is acclaimed for his expertise in making complex issues accessible and understandable through his innovative diagram types. His work spans a diverse range of domains including data visualization, data storytelling, knowledge mapping, information architecture, and digitalization strategies. Focused on developing both physical and digital experiences, he enhances human understanding and engagement with data.

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00:12 – 00:17
Welcome back to the PolicyViz Podcast. I’m your host, Jon Schwabisch.

00:17 – 00:26
On this week’s episode of the show, we turn to the new book from Darian Hill and Nicole Lachmeier, modular information design

00:26 – 00:34
handbook, where they basically break down what most of us would call data encodings, so lines, bars, circles.

00:34 – 00:37
They break that down to its core elements.

00:37 – 00:42
So it’s still circle, but it’s not just a circle in a dot plotter or a bubble in a bubble chart.

00:42 – 00:46
They break it down all the way down to a circle. What is a circle? What can it be used for?

00:46 – 00:50
How can we combine them and modify them? How can we add color? How can we place them?

00:50 – 00:52
And so the book is really interesting.

00:52 – 00:54
The book is also beautiful, by the way.

00:54 – 00:56
I mean, just just great to hold.

00:56 – 00:59
But the book is really interesting because it breaks data visualization,

01:02 – 01:02

01:07 – 01:15
as Leland Wilkinson’s, the grammar of graphics, not quite on steroids, but really getting all the way back to those core elements.

01:15 – 01:23
And so I talked to Dardion and Nicole about their work, obviously, when they are creating things for for clients and and all

01:23 – 01:31
those sorts of things, but also where we focus most of our conversation on their workshops and how they work with people in

01:31 – 01:36
this sort of analog way as they break all of these components down and then to build back up.

01:36 – 01:43
And so it’s a really interesting discussion to hear how they work with workshop participants and how they work with clients,

01:44 – 01:50
especially in the sort of analog world where I think most of us are, you know, kind of itching to get back behind the computer

01:50 – 01:56
and write some code or or make something in any of the many data visualization tools that are out there. So it’s a really fascinating conversation.

01:57 – 02:05
If you are just getting into data visualization or you are thinking about how you can sort of expand your library or your

02:05 – 02:08
creative process, I think this conversation is for you.

02:08 – 02:16
I think the book is also for you because it can help you break things all the way back down to basics where you can then build

02:16 – 02:23
up and expand what you’ll ultimately present to your boss, your client, your audience, whatever it might be, because you can

02:23 – 02:29
think more specifically in a more detailed way about these different visualizations.

02:29 – 02:36
And as you’re also going to hear, Darian and Nicole talk about the difference between fast thinking and slow thinking, not

02:36 – 02:42
in the sort of Daniel Kahneman sort of way, but really in how we create our visualizations.

02:42 – 02:49
We wanna click, drag, make things, write some code, run the program, do it all really quickly, get things going where really

02:49 – 02:56
the slower process can help us think, can help us iterate, and ultimately, help us create better products at the end of the day.

02:56 – 02:58
So I think you’re really gonna like this conversation.

02:58 – 03:00
So thanks again for listening to the podcast.

03:01 – 03:07
Here’s my conversation about the new book, Visualization Complexity Modular Information Design Handbook.

03:09 – 03:17
Guardian, Nicole, great to see you in a room together, which is just kind of amazing for doing a virtual interview. This is great.

03:17 – 03:21
I’m very excited to chat with you about your book, modular information design handbook.

03:21 – 03:30
As I was saying before we turned on the recording, I hesitate to write in it or, like, mark it because the book itself is beautiful.

03:30 – 03:34
So, anyway, so thanks for coming on the show. Excited to chat with you both.

03:34 – 03:35
Thank you.

03:35 – 03:36
Excited to be here.

03:37 – 03:42
So I wanna start with introduction so people know who you are, and then I wanna get right into this book.

03:42 – 03:49
I have a whole host of questions about the content, but also the book, the physical book itself, because like I said, it’s

03:49 – 03:51
just, like, it’s just lovely to hold.

03:52 – 03:54
But let’s start with background and introduction.

03:54 – 03:59
So, Nicole, do you wanna start just a little bit about, you know, about yourself and how you how you got to where you are now?

03:59 – 04:08
Yeah. So, yeah, I studied I’m a trained graphic designer. I studied in Basel in Switzerland.

04:09 – 04:15
I’m, like, the cofounder of SuperDot together with Diane, and we are in our studio.

04:15 – 04:19
So what you see in the background is our studio. Yeah.

04:20 – 04:30
So Diane and me, we met at the, master’s program in Basel, and I did some, like, data visualization and infographics before,

04:30 – 04:37
and I was always interested how we could do, like, data design a bit more design y and and less, like, technical.

04:37 – 04:46
So that was kind of my research thing, and I also worked, for a research project at the Basel, School of Design back then

04:46 – 04:53
when it was about city development and what we could do with, like, data and, design there.

04:53 – 05:05
So and Diane had similar ideas, I think, when he came to the masters, and, that’s how then after that, we started our business together. And, yeah, I think that’s

05:05 – 05:09
So did you guys start the business, like, right after your degree?

05:09 – 05:15
Was that was that, like, once you met in in doing the program, you’re like, when we’re done, like, this is what we’re gonna

05:16 – 05:24
do? Yeah. So, actually, I think in the beginning, Diane did not want to work with me, but I wanted to work with him because I found

05:27 – 05:34
because back then, I was working with someone as I had, like, a studio where we, actually mainly designed, like, art books

05:34 – 05:41
and that I loved that, but I thought, yeah, in the future, this is not so interesting anymore to do that for the next, I don’t know, 20 years.

05:41 – 05:50
So I wanted to do something else in a more interdisciplinary, environment, and I thought Stein would be the good partner.

05:50 – 05:57
So we started a more, like, loose not team, not like a business, but more how do you call it that?

05:57 – 05:58

05:58 – 05:59
Collective. Yeah.

05:59 – 06:01
Collective. In German, you say collective. Yeah.

06:01 – 06:12
Like a loose group of freelancers just to with the idea to get some data wiz or data design projects, and then we see what comes from there. So, that was the starting point.

06:12 – 06:15
That was, like, 12 12 years ago.

06:15 – 06:17
Yeah. Now in the first 8th. Yeah.

06:17 – 06:17

06:17 – 06:22
What a naive idea. In the beginning. You’re Hey. What’s

06:23 – 06:24
what’s your background?

06:25 – 06:31
Yeah. So I studied I finished master’s in business informatics in Vienna.

06:31 – 06:37
So, I was more in this IT software development area Right.

06:37 – 06:45
Working for IBM, and then I got actually a very well paid job in a Swiss bank.

06:45 – 06:48
So, actually, that’s how I landed in Switzerland, Zurich.

06:49 – 07:02
And, at some point, I just thought, okay, business and, like, business life and the way how meetings go, could be probably

07:02 – 07:09
more efficient based on kind of more visual based decisions. Mhmm.

07:09 – 07:17
And, yeah, and that’s actually how the second career came together so that we actually studied in in the master’s program,

07:17 – 07:19
which was kind of the 1st year launch.

07:19 – 07:21
So it was for both of us something new.

07:21 – 07:29
This, was called Visual Communication and Iconic Research. Mhmm. And, we were the 1st generation.

07:30 – 07:36
So, actually, really, in that program, we had time, and we were both working next to studying.

07:36 – 07:47
And we had kind of this really, at some point, idea to start, yeah, to start something in the information design area, not

07:47 – 07:51
knowing how that business model actually would look like.

07:51 – 07:55
And everybody knows it’s not the easiest business model. Yeah.

07:55 – 07:57
Yeah. That will be a great topic too. Right?

07:57 – 07:58

07:58 – 07:59
To talk about business.

07:59 – 08:01
Let’s talk about business. Do it. Yeah.

08:01 – 08:13
Yeah. Well well, what and what’s interesting though about this book is that a lot of it feels about the process of designing of of creating a visualization. There’s kinda 2 parts.

08:13 – 08:15
I Jon wanna make sure that folks know that are listening.

08:15 – 08:19
So what what is the what is the book do?

08:19 – 08:20
What is the the point of the book?

08:20 – 08:27
And then also just sort of, like, generally, how do you define modular information design, which is, you know, the name of the book.

08:27 – 08:30
So, like, what is this, and how do how does it play out in in your work? Mhmm.

08:31 – 08:41
Mhmm. And maybe we can start with a bit the background while we were writing the book at all, because we realized after a

08:41 – 08:50
while in practice that that we are having a very, maybe unique or, like, a certain way of doing data design.

08:50 – 09:03
And then we also find out that it’s quite hard to explain to new, like, staff members to to tell them how we actually work and what our approach is. Mhmm.

09:03 – 09:09
And then after some years, we also had the opportunity to teach at, design school in Switzerland.

09:11 – 09:15
Also, like, information visualization, aesthetic, something like that.

09:15 – 09:20
And then we realized, woof, this is actually not an easy process.

09:20 – 09:28
So I said, how can we make it, you know, more accessible for, like, in the first half Jon in the first half for designers

09:30 – 09:38
back then to really, like, show them that data is also a material to design with, and it’s not just a a technical

09:40 – 09:41
To to function Yeah.

09:42 – 09:51
Question also. Yeah. It’s not just a functional, like, right and wrong, but you can also design with data and do it, like, step by step. As if yeah.

09:51 – 09:57
And play as like, you do it with other elements in design because we had in parcel.

09:58 – 10:05
At the school, we in the 1st year, you do all these basic exercises that are in the beginning, you think, I I wanna do, like,

10:05 – 10:07
poster design, and this is not so interesting.

10:08 – 10:13
But you have to do for data, you have to do really basic exercises just with black and white and that stuff.

10:13 – 10:19
And then you realize, oh, this is really, really cool to really understand the the process.

10:19 – 10:26
So we thought, how can we bring back that to data design so it gets a bit more playful? So Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

10:26 – 10:41
May maybe to add, as I I was I’ve been coming from the business and kind of more this software direction. So I was really like, okay. Come on. Let’s do this. Let’s do this in the computer. Let’s be fast and so on.

10:41 – 10:51
And what I actually had to learn here in Switzerland, in the school and especially in the design education is that kind of there is no fast.

10:51 – 10:59
So you have to sit down and actually the exercises you get in school are so basic that you’re like, okay.

10:59 – 11:01
Are we here in the middle age?

11:01 – 11:09
But actually, you realize by working really by hand and just like with black and white, and maybe the the teacher is asking

11:09 – 11:17
you to create different variations of 5 lines not connecting.

11:17 – 11:21
So kind of what can you do with that? And then you’re like, hey. Why should I do it?

11:21 – 11:23
What does it does it make sense?

11:23 – 11:28
But actually and then you’re like, after 5 minutes, you think you’re done. And then they’re like, okay. No.

11:28 – 11:30
We’re gonna do this for 5 days.

11:30 – 11:38
And and that is actually training you to really think around the corner, and that makes that needs time.

11:38 – 11:44
And then, actually, you realize that that approach lets you think about the concept itself.

11:44 – 11:47
The meaning, like, does it make sense what I’m doing?

11:48 – 11:58
And this is so strong that actually we realize that, yes, next to all the valuable books and approaches in the data visualization

11:59 – 12:08
field, the way we work with this kind of super basic thinking on the core elements.

12:08 – 12:14
Like, are we talking here about color, or are we talking here about that something is circular?

12:15 – 12:23
So, again, we are really trying to take apart the discussion, the literacy, the discussion on it. What are we here talking about?

12:23 – 12:27
Or especially if you talk with clients and you get the critique, so they criticize something.

12:28 – 12:36
Then you have to find out what level are we talking about? Are you criticizing now the color? Are you criticizing the content?

12:36 – 12:41
Are you criticizing the mathematical calculation behind what are you talking about?

12:41 – 12:54
So in order to have that kind of really precise way, we, at some point, we decided to say, okay, we have to take somehow try to take the system apart.

12:54 – 12:57
As we do that in design, as we learned that in design.

12:58 – 13:03
Let’s apply that mindset to data visualization, to diagrams, and to information design.

13:04 – 13:07
Right. So you’ve broken it down in the book.

13:07 – 13:15
You’ve broken it all the way down to, I wanna say, encodings, but it’s even kind of more even more basic than that.

13:15 – 13:24
Because I think when people think visual encodings, they think line and a line chart as opposed to a line that you know, something that connects 2 points.

13:24 – 13:27
You’ve really broken it all the way down. So Yeah.

13:27 – 13:35
I wanna get to the to the client work and how you to this point, Darian, about, like, people in a room who are probably used

13:35 – 13:42
to working on a computer, and you’re forcing them to draw and then, you know, work with cards and post it notes and, like,

13:42 – 13:44
whether that you know, how that works.

13:44 – 13:53
But talk to me about the book itself and and how you hope people will use because each page is, like, a different again, I’m

13:53 – 13:57
gonna use the word encoding, but I’m gonna use that loosely because yeah.

13:57 – 13:59
I mean, maybe you have a different word.

13:59 – 13:59
No. It’s correct.

13:59 – 14:01
It’s a page that’s sort of a different Yeah.

14:01 – 14:02
Yeah. Yeah.

14:02 – 14:03
Yeah. We use the same. Yeah.

14:03 – 14:07
Coding and decoding. Yeah. Encoding. Yeah. Yeah.

14:07 – 14:16
So basically, that’s actually a very big hurdle, especially in today’s world where everybody has the feeling even with now

14:16 – 14:23
GPT and all the things that we can be even faster and faster and more like so that’s in every day.

14:23 – 14:30
I mean, that kind of every new client relationship, but also with the relationship with students, it’s kind of this first moment.

14:30 – 14:40
We we need to explain ourselves why it is important for us to just take out the pace, take out the speed, and kind of go back

14:40 – 14:47
to this thing, which is called paper, and, try to sketch again.

14:48 – 14:50
And then the people are like, yeah.

14:50 – 14:55
I’m not the drawing type of person. I cannot draw. And all these things come up.

14:55 – 14:57
And then you’re like, yeah, I know. Me neither.

14:57 – 15:03
So I’m also not the biggest guy, but still a line or kind of a box or something we can do.

15:03 – 15:11
And, and and then we can also, as soon as they do that, we say, okay, Are you using color? And then we can ask, okay. Why did you use color here?

15:11 – 15:14
And what what does the color stand for?

15:14 – 15:17
Or do you wanna try to use pattern instead of color?

15:17 – 15:28
So we are there step by step trying to really make out of that that hurdle is Jon the other hand, a potential because people

15:28 – 15:30
have that resistance that they I don’t wanna do it.

15:30 – 15:32
So actually, they do it very efficient.

15:32 – 15:36
So actually, because you don’t wanna draw, you try to do it very efficient.

15:36 – 15:39
And that’s actually quite a good point in this process.

15:39 – 15:51
And then there is this magical moment when the class or people have more than one hand drawn piece of paper somewhere, and

15:51 – 15:53
we put them all next to each other.

15:53 – 16:00
And then you realize that you have, I don’t know, 30 different ways to solve the problem. Mhmm.

16:00 – 16:05
And before, there was maybe 5 ways to solve the problem in Microsoft Excel.

16:05 – 16:08
So actually, you’re like, okay, this is now getting interesting.

16:08 – 16:14
And that’s kind of this icebreaker situation where people see, okay. This is a process.

16:14 – 16:17
This is kind of something that needs time.

16:17 – 16:21
It’s actually in writing because people start chatting with each other. Mhmm.

16:21 – 16:24
And there is this kind of, let’s do this.

16:25 – 16:31
Let’s do this atmosphere, like kind of, okay, let let’s let’s do the next one. Like, what is happening next? Yeah.

16:31 – 16:39
So that’s really helping because before in the meetings, we tried to be very fast with our clients also.

16:40 – 16:45
And we just realized that then we have discussions or critique.

16:45 – 16:50
We got critique where we were not sure, is this because we used the wrong color?

16:50 – 16:53
Was it because they really, because we missed the topic?

16:53 – 16:56
Was it that the concept is bad?

16:56 – 16:58
So actually, we try to take that apart.

16:58 – 17:08
And as we stay for a long time on paper, in order to clarify that we really altogether got the topic right, the concept is

17:08 – 17:13
right, the diagram is right, the visual language is right, and then we go into the digital.

17:13 – 17:20
Yeah. So Nicole is a designer. I wanna ask you because because Yeah. You mentioned something that’s so funny. Like, I can’t draw. Right?

17:20 – 17:26
Like, I say that all the time because, like, I feel like but, like, every designer I talk to is, like, everybody can draw. So, like, when you are

17:26 – 17:27
working can’t draw.

17:27 – 17:32
Yeah. When when you’re working with people, like, how when they say, I can’t draw. I can’t sketch.

17:32 – 17:37
Like, how do you help them over that that hump, over that block?

17:39 – 17:46
Yeah. I mean, when we do workshops, we give them, like, a nice paper, that maybe the similar set of pens.

17:47 – 17:50
So they see what the others are doing. Right?

17:50 – 17:50

17:51 – 17:55
The stent yeah. Maybe stencil or rulers so they can work with rulers as well.

17:55 – 17:58
So if they don’t wanna do, like, hand drawn stuff. So

17:58 – 17:59

17:59 – 18:03
Yeah. I think that that’s working pretty well. Do you It’s engaging.

18:04 – 18:05
Yeah. And do you do you

18:05 – 18:15
think it it having this this idea sort of behind all this that eventually I’m gonna be using data, do you think that helps people?

18:16 – 18:23
I’m I’m always curious about because I’m certainly put myself in this camp of, like, more like the quantitative data side

18:23 – 18:27
rather than the art design side, and that’s always that barrier.

18:27 – 18:29
But I wonder whether you say to someone, hey.

18:29 – 18:31
We’re gonna draw, but in the background, there’s data.

18:31 – 18:38
Like, that’s where you’re comfortable, and I wonder if that helps people get over this hump of, like, I can’t draw, but I do know data.

18:39 – 18:51
Yeah. It’s, like, exactly that connection from the table, with to the to the design. So, yeah, you mentioned chartreuse before.

18:51 – 18:51
So Yeah.

18:52 – 18:55
As we we work maybe less with chartreuse, I mean, they are fine.

18:55 – 18:58
It’s, an interesting and a good approach.

18:58 – 19:08
But for us, it’s, like, through doing that by hand to working with the data by hand, you actually realize, you you you understand

19:09 – 19:12
that also, like, the standard charts much better.

19:12 – 19:17
So this is also maybe one of the aims in the end not to say, okay.

19:17 – 19:22
With this drawing, it’s like art, and they make the most beautiful sketch, and mine is more beautiful than yours.

19:23 – 19:28
So it’s actually made it through drawing, you understand that this process from data.

19:28 – 19:34
What happens from the table with the raw data to the visualization?

19:34 – 19:42
No matter if it’s like a regular bar chart or pie chart or a fancy, like, data art stuff. You know?

19:42 – 19:42
So Right.

19:42 – 19:46
Like, this connection from from from data to the

19:46 – 19:48
Yeah. Maybe to

19:48 – 19:48
the product.

19:48 – 19:50
Maybe I add someone.

19:50 – 19:50
Yeah. Sure.

19:50 – 19:54
Yeah. So the you said understanding, kind of understanding of the diagram.

19:54 – 20:05
But the other thing is also that we are not suggesting a new alternative to data analysis, like, explorative analysis with

20:05 – 20:07
tools that you do with big data and so on.

20:07 – 20:12
That’s not actually what we so that’s that world, it’s good as it is. So Yeah.

20:12 – 20:16
I think calculating, finding patterns, and so Jon, that’s one thing.

20:16 – 20:17
The other is that you say, okay.

20:17 – 20:20
How can I bring this to the audience?

20:20 – 20:21
How can I kind of translate it?

20:21 – 20:24
How can I invite people to look at my findings?

20:25 – 20:29
So, actually, if you say, I have my findings. I’m fine with that. You don’t need to do that.

20:29 – 20:34
So you you did you you find your pattern and everything, it’s good. But if you say, okay.

20:34 – 20:40
I wanna bring it to a wider audience, then maybe it gets interesting to say, okay.

20:40 – 20:42
Let’s and that’s actually the part where we say, okay.

20:42 – 20:46
Let then take out a little because you don’t need big data to do that.

20:46 – 20:52
So kind of take out little, maybe a minimum, an average, and a maximum country or something.

20:52 – 20:56
So kind of take out some little pieces out of that big table.

20:56 – 21:03
So which is representing the idea, and then let’s try on that little scale at that little amount to draw things.

21:04 – 21:07
And the interesting point is it’s through door drawing.

21:07 – 21:14
You actually because it’s slow and you don’t want to do that, you start thinking still about your data and the concept.

21:14 – 21:21
And very often, the process is that people, through doing it, they actually understand the data in a new way.

21:21 – 21:28
So, actually, that’s coming then back again to that explorative part. Right. Do you

21:28 – 21:37
find a difference between working with a group that people are from all different walks of life and kind of a more public

21:37 – 21:45
kind of workshop versus when you’re working with a team in, you know, in within a a a particular, you know, specific company

21:45 – 21:48
or or with a you know, they are their own team?

21:48 – 21:56
Like, do you do you find that people work together and interact in different ways when they know each other versus when they’re

21:56 – 22:02
when they’re, you know, part of a part of a team in the preexisting team? That’s a

22:02 – 22:14
good way to answer. Yeah. I would say I would answer with a fast no because, we did we did, like, workshops where we had representatives

22:15 – 22:24
from European from all over Europe coming together at the federal statistics department, having 3 day workshop on data visualization.

22:24 – 22:28
So they were statisticians coming from all everywhere, never worked before.

22:28 – 22:34
But as soon as they were these sketches on the table, they started talking to each other and said, oh, this is actually an interesting approach. Why did you do that?

22:34 – 22:36
So, actually, it was a conversation starter.

22:36 – 22:44
And the same thing happens if the people know each other very well in the team, and we go to a certain company, and they wanna do the workshop.

22:44 – 22:47
Actually, I would say the same thing happens.

22:47 – 22:52
So I it it’s very it’s it’s similar. It’s similar. Interesting.

22:52 – 22:59
Yeah. Also, there’s also a connection to the chart chooser again because when you have a lot of variations, you can start

22:59 – 23:09
to discuss which option would fit that data best or I mean, depending on the target that you have, of course, but, you know,

23:09 – 23:18
you you have this selection where you can choose from, and it’s not like one, chart is right and the other one is wrong, maybe.

23:18 – 23:24
I mean, it depends on the data, but you can also see what doesn’t work, not just what is working. You know? Yeah.

23:24 – 23:28
You have this variation, and you can look at it and then discuss and decide.

23:28 – 23:36
Like, this also learning to this side when you are using other tools, like, I don’t know, Excel, Tableau, whatever. It doesn’t matter for us.

23:37 – 23:39
Also, there you have to be able to make decisions.

23:40 – 23:46
So I think that, model information design can help you, finding that decision.

23:47 – 23:50
Yeah. I have I have sort of a complicated relationship with the chart chooser.

23:50 – 23:59
I mean, I I have my own and but but I also feel like the phrase chart chooser is is, complicated.

23:59 – 24:02
As you said, it’s not like you, like there’s an answer.

24:02 – 24:03
Like none of these are an answer.

24:04 – 24:09
It is just a, variations or just opportunities that you can use.

24:10 – 24:15
But again, your work boils that down even further. Right?

24:15 – 24:25
Because I think the chart users would say, okay, scatterplot, dot plot, bubble chart, but you break that down even further into here is a circle.

24:25 – 24:30
Here is a circle with, you know, a variation on the circle itself.

24:30 – 24:39
And so do you find, as you’re working with folks that again, to to your point about this fast versus slow, which I I really love that that idea.

24:39 – 24:44
Do you find that people wanna move really fast? They’re like, oh, circle. Okay. I’ll make a scatter plot.

24:44 – 24:48
But then you’re you’re you have to pull and rein them back in. Like, you you find

24:48 – 24:52
that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. That’s how it works.

24:52 – 24:58
Yeah. Yeah. Totally. But but I always also always say that for the first catches, you also have to do that. You know?

24:58 – 25:00
You have to do the bar chart or the Yeah.

25:00 – 25:04
Kind of plot just to do it, and then you can move from there. You know?

25:04 – 25:05
So you

25:05 – 25:08
have you can relate to the to the other basic chart.

25:08 – 25:16
But, in general, you can with our, really, with our, elements, you you could build all the standard charts. You know? It’s just

25:16 – 25:17

25:17 – 25:21
Broken down even more. Yeah. It’s a combi yeah.

25:21 – 25:24
It’s a combination of the elements, but you can build everything.

25:24 – 25:29
Yeah. Right. And that makes it actually the system also complicated and kind of it’s advanced.

25:30 – 25:41
So, because it’s so elemental, people who are not used to work with different diagram types and haven’t seen different diagram

25:41 – 25:52
types, For them to say, there is a beauty that kind of taking it apart into the smallest piece. It’s kind of, woah. It’s kind of too big signs.

25:52 – 25:54
It’s like, why why should I do that?

25:54 – 25:58
And so, actually, we we just discovered those.

25:58 – 26:07
So we we thought when we brought up modern information design that, oh, this is so easy. It’s so simple. It’s for everyone. And then we realized, okay. Mhmm.

26:07 – 26:12
Actually, people have more advantage if they are not beginners. So yeah.

26:13 – 26:18
Oh, right. Well, it’s interesting because every part of a graph can be broken down. Right?

26:18 – 26:24
I think a lot of people think about you know, I I I do this exercise where where you show them a graph and they see the line chart.

26:24 – 26:26
You know, the line goes up and then it comes down.

26:26 – 26:34
But they miss the fact that all the labels and the access lines and the tick marks and the like, all that stuff is are things that you can control.

26:34 – 26:42
And the way you have have set this up is you’ve broken that all the way down to it’s, like, its core elements of each mark

26:42 – 26:46
as it were is its own thing in the in the space.

26:46 – 26:50
Exactly. It’s a each is a one component you can think about. Yeah.

26:50 – 26:58
Right. So how do you then at the end of the at the end of the workshop, the end of the day, you’ve got people have pencils

26:58 – 27:01
and markers and paper all over the place, which sounds which sounds amazing.

27:02 – 27:13
How do you, how do you help them to the next step, which is they’re gonna go back to work the next data, and they’re gonna

27:13 – 27:17
have to implement this, and they’re probably right back behind the computer.

27:17 – 27:22
So how do you how do you help them bridge that that last that last part?

27:22 – 27:34
Yeah. So, in this that’s mostly when people are coming for kind of further education situation that kind of they are working somewhere. Students, it’s easier.

27:34 – 27:37
We can’t really if people are from professional side, then they’re like, okay.

27:37 – 27:40
How should I do that next day?

27:40 – 27:44
And then normally discussion goes into the direction that you say, okay.

27:45 – 27:54
Maybe I mean, there is no tool, not yet, which is doing this kind of super elementary combination. Yeah.

27:56 – 28:08
But if people go back to their everyday business and they are more conscious on the choice. Mhmm. Beat in Excel.

28:08 – 28:11
Let’s talk because the Excel is the most simple thing. Sure.

28:11 – 28:19
But they are aware why they use the line and they are aware that they are not just using all color palettes, but they use

28:19 – 28:26
maybe red for present and dark red for the future. No.

28:26 – 28:34
Like, let’s say light red for future because it’s blurry and the dark for the past so that you have already little changes

28:34 – 28:40
in sign, which make the whole thing more readable, then we say, okay. Mission achieved. Right. Right.

28:40 – 28:46
Yeah. I think it’s it’s about, like, data literacy and everyday use of charts.

28:46 – 29:01
And, also for me, always I’m saying, learning to see, you know, looking at things more carefully, and I think already that helps you to to find decisions.

29:02 – 29:12
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. I wanna come back to the book specifically because like I said at the front, it is just, lovely to

29:12 – 29:16
hold and and why I haven’t marked it up and folded all the pages and everything.

29:16 – 29:25
But so can you tell me, can you just tell me about the the process of of of writing the book and and, you know, not just like

29:25 – 29:32
page by page, but, like, you know, when you started talking to publishers about actually doing this, what was that like?

29:32 – 29:38
Did you have do you were you like, we’re gonna lay this book out where we want this kind of page, you know, paper type?

29:38 – 29:43
I mean, I can imagine just looking at your studio behind you that, you know, you you know what kind of paper you want.

29:43 – 29:48
So what what was the whole, yeah, that whole that whole process like?

29:48 – 29:55
Yeah. I mean, for us, it was not since this is our first, like, book, we did not know exactly when to approach a publisher,

29:55 – 29:57
so how much do we need to have?

29:58 – 30:10
And we had, like, this process where we were, like, drawing, of course, and that, all the pages or all the diagrams and and

30:10 – 30:19
then also, I mean, all the elements, we were, drawing them step by step by hand, and we were making notes also by hand, and

30:19 – 30:25
then we started to put the system together, and we we, discussed a lot how the system could work.

30:25 – 30:34
So it was what I want to say with that is that it’s not like we wrote all the text and then we added the images or, you know, we found the images.

30:34 – 30:43
So it was like next to each other, like writing at the same time as still designing the system and and developing the system.

30:43 – 30:52
So it was, like, more hand in hand, which I think was not easy for the publisher in the end because we had to I think we had,

30:52 – 30:56
like, this format, I don’t know, keypad or something where everything was in one, and we thought

30:56 – 30:58
that was probably not right.

30:58 – 31:03
It’s great to see, or with the visual because you cannot understand the visual without the text.

31:03 – 31:05
Yeah. Yeah.

31:05 – 31:09
Or the text, you cannot understand the text without the visual. That’s probably more important.

31:09 – 31:17
And were were you in in that process, were you also I assume, that you were also teaching and and obviously doing work and teaching and doing workshops.

31:17 – 31:25
Like, were you sort of as you were teaching and learning, seeing things that worked and didn’t work, was that feeding back into the into the book itself?

31:25 – 31:28
Like, was it all this, like, mess of everything happening at the same time?

31:29 – 31:35
Exactly. It was a constant I mean, we had a constant discussion and restructuring.

31:35 – 31:42
I mean, the whole system, I think we have redone it 4 times. So, again, we thought it’s done.

31:42 – 31:45
The next day, Nico comes and said, actually, I think that doesn’t work.

31:45 – 31:48
So, actually, then we started again complicated. And again.

31:48 – 31:50
And at some point, we were like, okay. Now listen.

31:50 – 31:54
We I think we have to finish it now.

31:54 – 32:11
And I and we at at some point, we really had this the whole book in hand drawings, like, just step stapled together. Right. And then we’re like, okay. I think this is good enough. Let’s send this to the publisher.

32:11 – 32:15
And then we have 6 publishers, and we’re like, okay. Probably none of them will answer.

32:16 – 32:24
And actually, 5 of them answered positively that they would bring it out. So we’re like, okay. Okay. Good. Because we had this blueprint.

32:24 – 32:26
That was the blueprint of the book. Yeah.

32:26 – 32:35
Right. And so from there, how did you, did you when you were choosing between these I mean, that’s amazing.

32:35 – 32:37
They have 5 p 5 publishers interested.

32:37 – 32:40
Were you and given again, this is your first book.

32:40 – 32:43
You kinda learn over time, like, what you’re looking for.

32:43 – 32:43

32:43 – 32:51
were you looking for a publisher that would help you build the physical book that you wanted it to look and feel like?

32:51 – 32:55
Was that your, like, first concern, or did you want, like, someone who would really edit the book?

32:55 – 32:58
Like, what were you what were you look I’m curious what you were just looking for.

32:59 – 33:01
Yeah. I think I think more

33:01 – 33:05
like a partner to edit, like, the content and to have, like, another perspective.

33:06 – 33:09
Because as I said, I was a, like, book designer before.

33:09 – 33:19
I did artist books, so I had this clear idea in mind that I wanted to do a kind of a design book for, about data.

33:19 – 33:30
So it’s hard to come, like, really there was no other way that we would have designed it ourselves because it’s so close together, like, the content and the design.

33:30 – 33:32
I could never have given it to someone else.

33:32 – 33:34
Yeah. Yeah. It had to be Nicole.

33:34 – 33:39
So kind of publisher choice was who is allowing us to do everything ourselves.

33:39 – 33:41
Right. Right.

33:41 – 33:47
Yeah. Exactly. And then, like, of course, you find compromises because the publisher says, okay.

33:47 – 33:54
We we are always, like, using that paper, and you can choose from this one or the other one.

33:54 – 33:57
And we are working with this printing company that you cannot choose.

33:57 – 34:03
And how many copies that are printed, you cannot, decide on that. But, like

34:03 – 34:04
Design wise.

34:04 – 34:07
Design wise. Yeah. I could It

34:07 – 34:08
was all We we’re

34:09 – 34:12
we’re lucky that we could decide.

34:12 – 34:15
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. That is that is fantastic. Yeah.

34:15 – 34:17
I mean, that’s that that’s what you need.

34:18 – 34:25
And and when folks come in for a workshop, do they do they work from the book?

34:25 – 34:32
Or because because for folks who don’t know, who who don’t have the book, which they for listeners who don’t know, they don’t have the book, they should.

34:32 – 34:37
There is a a fold out, poster, and I can see it on your wall there.

34:37 – 34:39
There’s a fold out poster that comes with it.

34:39 – 34:45
But I’m curious when people come to the workshop, do they, do they work from the book itself?

34:46 – 34:49
Or, is that, like, something you give them later?

34:49 – 34:55
Or or is that just, like, it’s just this is just the model for how you teach it, but the book isn’t, like, in the class.

34:55 – 34:58
So so how do you, yeah, I mean, I guess, how does that work?

34:59 – 35:12
Yeah. Actually, we’re quite flexible. So, normally, different university programs, they they ask us that the book is kinda

35:12 – 35:17
must not be the, like, condition for the workshop.

35:17 – 35:22
So it kind of we we start from that point that they people don’t have the book. Sometimes people say, yeah.

35:22 – 35:26
I would like to have the book or they already ordered the book. That’s very good.

35:26 – 35:34
We Jon of restart or kind of we build up the whole workshop by, bringing and projecting all the elements showing and kind

35:34 – 35:38
of the that’s why there is this kind of, summary post.

35:38 – 35:41
They’re having all the elements, and so we do that step by step.

35:42 – 35:44
And if people want to have the book, it’s amazing.

35:45 – 35:47
If they want to have only the post, it’s also good.

35:47 – 35:54
And if they want to have none of that, it’s also okay because they we are providing the information during workshop.

35:54 – 35:58
Sure. Sure. Well, I love it. I think it’s great.

35:58 – 36:07
I think you’ve broken down the the core elements, and I I think it’s terrific for especially for people who are just getting their feet into this field.

36:07 – 36:18
And the last thing I wanted to ask you is on that topic of how do you think about, folks who at least think they’re more advanced than data visualization. Right?

36:18 – 36:20
Like, we all think we’re we’re great at what we do. Right?

36:20 – 36:27
But, like, for those folks who who might come in and say, I I, you know, I code in R or JavaScript. I don’t you know? I don’t know.

36:27 – 36:30
Like, how how, like, how do you work with those folks?

36:30 – 36:36
You kinda like do you feel like you need to break them down and then build them build them back up again?

36:36 – 36:45
The the funny thing is that I had a workshop with people who, at the university with some scientists that they are working

36:45 – 36:52
with R mostly, and they said, oh, this concept, I can really it’s really familiar to me because, like, this is also kind of

36:52 – 36:55
how R works, and they can really relate to it.

36:55 – 37:04
So they, that was we we didn’t know that before because we don’t work with R, but, yeah, that was cool to know.

37:04 – 37:08
So we are still getting feedback or collected feedback. So

37:08 – 37:09
Right. Yeah.

37:09 – 37:17
Everyone who, wants to add something, we are happy to know about how people using the books and because it for us, it was also an experiment.

37:18 – 37:19
Right. Right.

37:21 – 37:29
So before we go, where I’ll put links to the to the book, obviously, and you had this really cool post on on LinkedIn that

37:29 – 37:34
had pictures from a workshop, so I’ll put all that. But where can folks find you?

37:34 – 37:37
How can they get involved in one of these workshops?

37:38 – 37:40
Like, yeah, where where can folks find you both?

37:40 – 37:47
So, super data studio, that’s the address, from the company. They can write us.

37:47 – 37:54
They can find us, but, like, we have personal profiles on LinkedIn and Instagram. We’re happy to connect with people.

37:55 – 38:01
We are in Switzerland, in Basel, open to chat, open for feedback.

38:01 – 38:11
And, also, if people are interested, we have also little format what we started in Vienna and Switzerland and kind of it Jon online.

38:11 – 38:19
It was called on data and design, where also we invite people from the field, sharing more the visual part, the images of

38:19 – 38:24
the practice and how they work and how they use data in a creative way.

38:24 – 38:27
So, actually, also our own data and design, they can approach us.

38:27 – 38:36
So the book should be available everywhere. We hope it’s still available. And yeah. So yeah.

38:36 – 38:40
That’s That’s terrific. Well, I’ll put I’ll put links to all that. Folks should definitely check it out.

38:40 – 38:46
So it’s visualizing complexity, modular information design handbook by Darian Hill and Nicole Lochmeier.

38:47 – 38:47
Thank you

38:47 – 38:48
both so much

38:48 – 38:48
for coming

38:48 – 38:49
on the show. Thank you. Great chatting.

38:49 – 38:51
Thank you for having us.

38:51 – 38:53
Well, it’s great fun. Thanks.

38:53 – 38:54
Yeah. It’s cool.

38:55 – 38:59
Thanks to everyone for tuning in to this week’s episode of the show. I hope you enjoyed that.

38:59 – 39:01
I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes and check out the book.

39:01 – 39:08
I put the links to the SuperDot studio and to the book and a few other things in the show notes to this episode.

39:09 – 39:14
I also hope you will take just a moment to rate or review the podcast.

39:14 – 39:21
It really helps me find new guests, broaden the reach of the show, and improve how lots of people visualize level.

39:26 – 39:30
I’ve got a lot of books that I’ve written on data visualization, on level.

39:30 – 39:36
I’ve got a lot of books that I’ve written on data visualization, on presentation skills, on making data visualizations in Excel.

39:37 – 39:40
Lots of great stuff over there at

39:40 – 39:45
So until next time, this has been the PolicyViz Podcast. Thanks so much for listening.