What happens now? – TableauFit

In 2015, I asked this question over and over again. I’d jumped from a job where Tableau made maybe 10% of my job to one where I consulted with clients on their needs. I went to Tableau Conferences, got a level of certification, and even dipped my toe into some of the social scene. I needed more so I started this blog.


I’m asking this today, but for a different reason. In the 6 years since, I’ve changed, but the greater community has as well.

  • There’s numerous social initiatives. Some have been around long enough to wind down, transition, or morph into something different.
  • There’s more content in more mediums than ever before, a byproduct of virtual events that are webcast, often recorded, but also shifting channels. Want video? We have several people doing fantastic things on YouTube, TikTok and other channels. A Clubhouse chat? Sure, we have that, too.
  • We’ve truly gone global. Finding blogs in languages other than English used to be rare. I love seeing the growing number of languages that we, the community, bring to the table. (PS – Are you Deaf and doing something in ASL or interested in doing so? Please let me know.) This isn’t translated content, but generated first in a given language. It takes into account the norms and customs exercised with that language.

The change isn’t isolated to the Tableau community. We are seeing a societial shift in data literacy, just like we saw when books and TV went mainstream. Cultures literate in the medium use stories as shared reference points. As a media literate culture, Squid Game is all the rage right now. Chances are, even if you’ve not seen it, you’ve heard about it and have a parrellel to its plot. Or, you’re one of the ones posting memes.

Covid-19 has changed how those outside of our work perceive dashboards. News sites don’t accompany stories with visualizations – the graphics themselves are the lede. “Flatten the curve” relies on a graphical understanding of charts – that the cases create hills and valleys and the flatter curve is better. Beyond prolifteration, data visualizations are serving as cultural reference points in the abstract. “Flatten the curve” is more than a rally cry: it’s proof more of us are seeing and understanding data.

What does that new literacy mean for us, as designers and developers of data visualizations?

More opportunity

We have a chance to revisit the paradigms we’ve used for how we learn, acculture, and create visualizations. Yes, I have a stake here, but others do as well. Beyond good and bad chart types, we practitioners have a chance to change our discourse and options in what visuals we present and how we present them.

Functional Aesthetics to be published through Wiley, 2022)

Broader ranges of data skills

Those consuming visualizations will have even more varied approaches to data. I love Sarah Nell-Rodriquez’s Bloom’s taxonomy and Allen Hillery’s work to bring data to the underserved communities. They recognize data literacy isn’t a boolean value, but a journey around understanding. Just as we bring varied skills to reading books, interpreting charts requires us – as authors – to push ourselves to be clear.

New roles

There’s a growing number of jobs I see centered around user adoption and direct consumer outreach. These aren’t behind-the-keyboard jobs, but human-facing teaching and listening jobs. Data visualization is another communications platform. For some places, data visualization is so important that’s it’s landed in the c-suite. These new roles are key: they’re how we reach everyone, not just the few.

Here’s to what’s next.

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