How many Dataviz Butterflies does it take to …

… start a month long challenge (3). … make my twitter account get out of control (42). … decide continue the project after November (49).

Martin Telefont
Nov 28, 2019 · 5 min read

It feels like forever ago that I finished the 100 day challenge that set me on the track to create Dataviz Butterflies. At the end of that project I had a lot of ideas I wanted to experiment with.

One of the things I wanted to do was try out different tools to see what I could do with them. One of the apps I got was a vector drawing tool. I doodles around a bit, but it didn’t stick.

It didn’t stick for a couple of reasons. One was that the style I used for the cartoons has a drafty feel to it. Smooth vector graphics was a leap to far at that time. Also creating vector graphics with a tablet and pen is very different from doodling with a pen. Ideas flow differently when adding an extra line is work.

When I opened the app again in early November I didn’t think of comics. I wanted to explore how to be productive with vector graphics. I played a bit with curves and basic operations (copy&paste, mirror, foreground, background). That I ended up with a butterfly was pure chance.

But since I had created one I thought I’ll have some fun with it. I drew a scatterplot pattern on it. Gave it a pig latin name and saved it. After that I did another one. I changed the shape of the wings, played with shape merge/split. Gave it a funny name and moved on. Last one was more experimental. It was all about transparency and overlapping shapes. I posted all 3 of them on social media in the morning and left it at that.

But that I had created 3 decent looking graphics in little time was something that made me curious. I wanted to know if I had more in me. It make me wonder how people would react if they saw me switching styles. To see if anybody else was curious I created a pool on twitter.

The bimodal trend was there at the end of the day. There were no outcries about what I did, and no riots due to excitement. I decided that I wanted to push myself a bit. I was sure I could do more than 30, but wanted to see if I could make it to 60, maybe even 100.

As I am writing this I have shared 52. Many only got noticed by my most hardened fans. Some got the occasional extra like. But it didn’t matter. By chance I managed to get into a zone that eluded me in the comics, or the medium drafts about dataviz.

A meditation on plot types, elements, and ideas.

There is very little planning going on. I grab my pen, the pad and I start. Some I get down the way I see them in my mind. Others I need a lot of time to craft. But all make it out when I put the pad down. No drafts for later revisions. No do overs.

And then late last week things started to change on twitter. Responding to Alberto and Maarten I created a page on my website with all the butterflies. I shared the link and a screenshot and didn’t think about it anymore. Well that was the start to a wild 48h ride.

The tweet that kicked this little odd project into high gear.

There has been praise for the original idea, and the execution. There have been questions on when I would look into specific plot type. There is an interest in getting merchandise featuring Dataviz Butterflies. There have even been butterfly sketches featuring plot types I didn’t have in mind. I am still scratching my head on what happened. And I don’t know what the next week(s) will bring. But I had some time to think about how I would like to continue and give back.

  • I will not end the project at the end of the month. I already started to experiment with adapting how I do the work to keep it going for a longer time. One of the hard lessons I learned from the comics is that you can’t use the methods used for a sprint to run a marathon.

And with these I’ll bring this article to an end. Maybe one more thing. I have been asked multiple timed what my favourite plot is. With a huge margin it’s Cordum Plotus.

Thanks for reading and wishing you a lovely day! 🦋


Stories by Martin Telefont

Martin Telefont

Written by

Generally Curious - Mostly Harmless


Stories by Martin Telefont

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