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).
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.
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.
- I will experiment more with butterfly “bouquets”. The idea being that I’ll try to share 3 graphics at a time. One featuring a popular dataviz plot (or element). One looking more experimental/fringe. And one where I highlight the contribution of a dataviz community member. If you want to nudge me towards somebodies contribution, or your favourite plot go for it!
- I’d like support people that want to join the fun of creating Dataviz Butterflies. I’ll make svgs and pngs available for download over the coming days. I am also tempted to create some ready to print pages that would make it easy for kids to join the fun. I suspect mine would love that.
- Also if you create things that are on the lighter side of dataviz let me know. I am greatful for the boost and appreciation people have given me in recent days and I would like to pay it forward. I would share via my twitter account and my new Data Humorism newsletter.
- Last but not least: I’ll start working on a Manifesto for the Linnean Dataviz Committe. Michael and Will: get your CVs ready! ;-)
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! 🦋