Making a ‘Thankful’ Viz

Visit the viz on Tableau Public.

Recently I’ve been trying to purposefully think more about the things I am thankful for and adopting a posture of gratitude. There are a lot of little ways to remind yourself to be thankful. Some people journal them when they wake up. Some post little notes on the mirror or fridge. Some talk about it with their spouses before bed. Me–well–I’ve been on this Tableau kick, so I thought, why not a viz?

I had been imagining a little desk calendar, with each day having its own posture of gratitude for the day–a phrase, an item, a person in my life. Each day I could turn over to the new day and remind myself and meditate on the thing I was grateful for.

(An animated “flipping of the page”–now that’s an interesting challenge. Maybe someone will try making it?)

I had put this idea in my Planner viz, since it is the kind of tool one uses daily. But I also liked the idea of a simple little desktop calendar as a standalone viz.

(Ooo–what if the calendar also updated its image each day? Another idea.)

At the time I wasn’t thinking about lots of different images and function. I wanted something simple. Something constant. Something that would be a reason to pause and take a breath. Like a little serenity garden in a busy office.

Inspiration

Joy in her senior year of college, circa 2006

I have a plant in my apartment. Her name is Joy. I first got Joy as a window plant for my dorm room as a freshman in 2002. She enjoyed beer and Mountain Dew.

When I graduated and moved out of the country, Joy went to live at my parents’ house. (She immediately went on a strict diet of water and sunlight.) For the next 10 years, my mom took care of her as I crisscrossed states and countries.

When I got married and settled down, my mom gave my wife and I a snipping of Joy. We took her from Minnesota to our apartment in Brooklyn in a backpack. (She continues her mainly water diet with the occasional nightcap now and then.)

When I think of gratitude, I think of Joy. I’m thankful that she was willing to pose as my model for my viz.

Design

I drew her using PowerPoint. It’s really not the most sophisticated, but then, I’m not the most sophisticated artist. I have an iPad but I lent the pencil to my boss a week before the crisis sent us all home back in March, so haven’t tapped into the options there yet. Drawing with a mouse is not my favorite thing. But, the point I guess is, it’s possible to do.

I selected all the marks for each leaf, and saved them each as a picture:

I inserted the picture and moved it around to make variations on the five leaves.

Then it was just a matter of arranging them in a frame and drawing a circular vine:

It may seem pedantic to go into such detail here, but this is all to show that you can make a lot happen in PowerPoint.

I added a touch of shading with the pencil, and it was ready to go.

Data

The data set is two columns in Google Sheets:

I put in a month’s worth to begin with. Adding more items to be thankful for a month into the future is nice, because then I’m reminded again once the items come up day by day.

Tableau

This is the way I did it:

And then I put “Display” on the filter shelf and excluded the nulls. But as I was looking at it again just now, I see that it’s much simpler to do it this way:

I don’t think about Booleans often enough. Hmm. Didn’t ever imagine writing that sentence. (Tip: Also with the boolean you don’t need anything on rows or columns and thus don’t need to hide the header.)

Now I had a view that would update itself each day.

Thankful

So here it is. My little Tableau desktop calendar of gratitude.

And with this blog post, I’m thankful for Ken Flerlage for opening my eyes to the world of possibilities with PowerPoint for Tableau graphics. My designs would still be nonexistent without it.

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