Phenology and Temperature Reconstruction at Kyoto

Dashboard 1 (9)

This is my first #IronViz entry and, frankly, my first ever viz of this type. In fact, my Latin American Youth Employment viz for #VizForSocialGood was the first explanatory viz I’d ever done and the first viz I’d even used floating objects in.

I do, thankfully, have several years of Tableau experience on the exploratory and executive dashboard side of things but for a project like this I needed to rely heavily on generous subject matter, my general design instincts, and a healthy amount of serendipity.

I had originally resolved to not enter the contest due to an inability to find an interesting dataset, but with only a few days to go before #IronViz entries were due, Sophie Sparks of the Tableau Public team came to the rescue with this brilliant webinar:


Trying to contain my excitement about the Cherry Blossom dataset, I first explored the data, lest it be unusable for any reason (for example, requiring any type of scrubbing or reshaping at this late stage of the game).  Fortunately, it looked good other than having to account for years without data which I believed I could handle.

The subject matter of this dataset could not have been better for me. Being intrigued by Japanese culture and having attended a cherry blossom festival or two in the United States, along with the science, culture, history, symbolism, and beauty associated with this topic, I couldn’t have been more motivated.

Having never done anything like this before, I first had to rapidly test several things before I could even come up with a concept.  I’d only just cut my teeth on floating objects and had never messed with layering, transparency, fonts, or word wrapping. I will likely have nightmares for the rest of my life about word wrapping 🙂

Fortunately, some of the worst parts of the experience actually produced some serendipity.

For example, the very bottom part of the viz was excruciating because I ran into a wall with how I was implementing word wrapping. It was also embarrassingly difficult to create the final result but I actually like the way it turned out!

Additionally, deciding to go long form in order to fit the entire line charts introduced some uncertainty because there was then a lot of space to fill. However, a basic understanding of this subject matter is needed in order to fully understand and appreciate the work so it turned out to be perfect!

Serendipity struck again in that I think the vertical line graphs are aesthetically pleasing to look at as you view the work from top to bottom.  I like to think that they almost suggest that the overall viz is a scroll with the line charts literally serving as decorations for each side of the scroll.

I also like to think that the line charts might produce some sense of suspense and “replay value” as the viewer doesn’t know what they are until getting toward the bottom of the viz. So, after first enjoying their suspense/aesthetic value during the first pass through the viz while receiving an orientation on Cherry Blossoms, viewers can then go back up to the top and experience each viz for a second time from a different perspective ; and possibly a third time from a still deeper perspective after reading the abstract excerpts at the very bottom of the viz.

I also love the way the histogram looks like an impressionist/mosaic cherry blossom tree crown (serendipity again ; I can’t take credit for planning this).

Anyway, I really enjoyed being part of another great Tableau community function. Many thanks to Sophie, Tableau and our great community that makes data visualization so much fun 🙂

Most importantly, however, thanks to Yasuyuki Aono et al. for their incredible and generous contribution to our understanding of the world.