A Gift Guide for the Data Viz Practitioner

13 gift ideas for that data viz practitioners are sure to enjoy

Coleman Harris
Dec 16, 2019 · 5 min read
Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — and it’s time to decide on the perfect gift for that special data viz practitioner in your life. Whether you’re reading this article for them, or for yourself, you’ve stumbled upon the Christmas yule log of gift lists. Sweet, with a bit of spice, all rolled into a clean final product— just like a good data visualization.


From how-to guides, to best practices, to pure artistic design, books are a first-rate gift for anyone interested in data viz.

  1. How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

The newest release from data viz heavyweight Alberto Cairo is packed full of tips to understand and decode all of the data visualizations that rule our daily lives. Cole Knaflic, another well-known data viz expert, has a fantastic book on Storytelling with Data that is also an excellent choice.

2. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

The modern abundance of data yields more than beautiful graphs—pick up this exposé from Caroline Criado Perez to reorient your reality to the biases baked into our data-driven world.

3. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The classic by Edward Tufte, data visualization pioneer. This book is considered by many to be a hallowed text in data visualization. And for those inspired by the occult and weird, there is the gorgeously curious Codex Seraphinianus — part impossible puzzle, part artistic masterpiece.


Inevitably, anyone interested in data viz enjoys the actual work that comes with crafting beautiful visuals. Some sketch, some scribble, but we all need tools to get the job done. These gifts are sure to make it straight into the data viz practitioner’s toolbox:

4. Sketchpad or notebook

Moleskin and Leuchtturm1917 notebooks are always highly recommended. For the pocket friendly, Field Notes and Rite in the Rain both have versatile options to choose from.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

5. Quality pens or pencils

Gel pencils, high-quality markers, the classic #2 pencil — there are plenty of options, and everyone appreciates a good writing utensil (I love a new Pilot G2 pen).

6. A white board with ultra fine tip dry erase markers

Writing with a chisel tip marker is a chore after doing any work using an ultra fine tip marker. I am a devout ultra fine tip user — it’s the only proper way to use a dry-erase board. I’ll die on that hill.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

7. Design ephemera from Present & Correct

Present & Correct has every little gadget or utensil you could possibly need for a successful design project. Graph tape, rubber stamps, fasteners, journals, colored chalk — it’s guaranteed data viz practitioners will have a field day in their store.


While the subscription model may not be everyone’s favorite, here are some worthwhile non-Nightingale subscriptions that would make any data viz professional happy.

8. Twelve-week subscription to The Economist

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Daily graphs in the website’s Graphic detail section, and weekly print issues to keep up with all things politics and economics—the perfect companion for data viz professionals.

9. One-year subscription to Nathan Yau’s Flowing Data resources, courses, and tutorials

Returning to revered members of the data viz community, Nathan Yau has been sharing and creating some of the internet’s best visualizations for over a decade. A subscription gives access to Yau’s step-by-step tutorials, courses of varying difficulty, and a wide community full of valuable resources.

10. Adobe Illustrator subscription

Illustrator is practically a required tool for the data viz practitioner. This is a no-brainer gift for those feeling a bit generous.


Having fun with our creativity makes us a better artist and a better person.

— Gwen Fox

Photo by Christopher Paul High on Unsplash

11. Board games

Try Codenames for its inventive strategy, Pandemic or Risk for the cartography enthusiast, or CATAN for those looking for adventure. And when wrapping that board game, consider Johannes Wirges recent break down of what board games teach us about data viz.

12. Swag from the PolicyViz store

Jonathan Schwabish, another highly regarded data visualization expert, runs the PolicyViz blog and podcast to encourage better data visualization communication. The shop is full of t-shirts, posters, and cheat sheets for the data viz practitioner — all supporting the excellent work Jon does.

Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash

13. Play-Doh

Come on, who doesn’t love opening a brand-new can of Play-Doh? It’s the perfect stress reliever and great for first-pass visualizations — a timeless classic.

Happy Holidays!

And with that, the yule log is finished off, satisfying the reader with visions of gift ideas dancing in their heads. Whatever you celebrate, I hope this gift list inspired someone’s perfect gift — or to treat yourself. I won’t tell.


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Coleman Harris

Written by

Dad and statistician. Writes about data, science, and data science.


The Journal of the Data Visualization Society

Coleman Harris

Written by

Dad and statistician. Writes about data, science, and data science.


The Journal of the Data Visualization Society

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