The Project Starter blog series will be about helping aspiring data analysts to get started on their own Data Viz projects for the Data School application or even just to explore the world of Tableau and Data Visualisations. For me, the start of any task is the most difficult part of the process because I can be undecisive with how I want to approach it. So I hope this first part will help kick off your data project with a few tips that helped me get the ball rolling.

1. Pick a topic that you are passionate about – Find your story

It may seem to be the most obvious thing to choose but sometimes you feel unsure if your favourite topic may lose the attention of your audience because it can have a lot of jargon that is confusing. Being passionate about a topic helps brainstorm the different stories you want to explore in a dataset that might give you ideas to provide insights that someone else who isn’t an expert on the topic can learn. There is a trade-off between choosing a topic you are passionate about that caters towards a small audience against a topic that is more easier to understand but feel less inspired. It helps to find a middle ground where you are both able to find unique insights that not many people can provide but also is easily understood by others when you explain it to them.

What I did on my Data School Application: I choose to make a data viz about basketball and the NBA league. Many people understand that it is a sport but I was able to add my own personal take on it by focusing on my favourite team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the 2010s era. The topic sounds very specific that not many others will know about but it helped show my passion with the unique take I had on the topic. If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have changed my topic but I definitely would have focused more on being able to translate it to others who are unfamiliar with the topic.

2. Find the right data to tell your story – Brainstorm and Explore the Data

After selecting a topic, you may have some difficulty finding the perfect dataset, I got my data for my viz from Kaggle but there plenty of other resource out there. Sometimes you may find what you like but doesn’t quite have enough to tell the story you want to tell. So when you brainstorm, keep in mind several different ideas and think about what kind of data you need. The first dataset you download may not be the best one so do some exploring with the data and look at what is recorded and understand what each field contains. Sometimes the publisher of the dataset will include a data dictionary that provides definitions for each field which is extremely useful in determining what data you can use.

What I did on my Data School Application: I did not always find what I wanted, even with the dataset I used for my data school application wasn’t perfect but I had to adjust and use what was available and build the story from there. After what I have already learned from the Data School Down Under, I understood that I didn’t fully utilise my data so my takeaway from this that I would’ve liked to explore more about the data to get the most out of it.

3. Try not to overwhelm yourself – Keep it simple

My perspective comes from that of someone who loves to day dream about various ideas and would be able to talk about 100 different things but have to limit myself. I love thinking about the details within the details and end up in a rabbit hole that consumes a lot of time. It is easy to overwhelm yourself with a barrage of ideas that you want to implement so keep it simple as it can help with planning out your time and setting a certain scope to follow. Working on your Data Viz can be stressful so also remember to step away from the computer when you need to.

What I did on my Data School Application: Looking back I still feel like I went overboard with my approach but I was able to show off my personality in my work. To help complete my project, I had to limit the scope and pick specific stories to explore. For example, I focussed on just only the 2010s era and 5 influential players on that team. I created one big story with 5 little stories within it. Keeping that structure in mind whilst working on the project helped me stay on the rails. The key is to tell the story you want to tell and take into consideration that you have a limited time to present it so choose wisely.

Thanks for reading my blog!!

I hope that these 3 tips will help you start your Data Viz project and please look out for Part 2 in the near future where I will cover some handy tips that you can show off your data. In my next blog, I will start another series, Don’t Be Me, about my experiences at the Data School and the lessons that I have learned each week to help others avoid those mistakes.

Kier Bituin
Author: Kier Bituin