Three Tips for More Effective Iterations

June 21, 2020

How many iterations does it take before you publish a visualisation? Do you feel that your iterative process is effective?

I’ve recently created the visualisation below for the Viz for Social Good project.

While this final version looks clean and polished, it did take me several days to get it right. I had the idea for the layout early on—inspired by many amazing sankey visualisations—but I struggled with the choice of colour. I needed two colours, one for each step in the sankey diagram. I tried dozens of variations, many of which looked horrible! Here’s a snapshot of them all.

All the different colours I tried for this visualisation; most of them don't look that great!

I had a breakthrough when I showed this to the head of design at work (thanks Mike!). He suggested I use analogous colours that do not both scream for attention. That was exactly what I needed! Two colours that were different enough to be seen as separate but similar enough to create a harmonious ensemble.

That’s how I ended up with the iteration #18 at the bottom right of the screenshot above.

The final version, using shades of blue and grey

Drawing from this design experience, here are three tips that can make your iterations more effective:

  • Try out every idea that pops up in your head. Even if it feels strange or silly at first, just try it out. There may be a hidden gem in one of those ideas.
  • Don’t delete the different variations of your visuals. Put them next to each other. It will be much easier to compare and decide what works and what doesn’t.
  • Keep looking for inspiration. Whenever you feel stuck, scroll through data visualisations on Pinterest or Behance. What you find there may inspire your solution.

What’s your secret for effective iterations? Do share! 🙌