The tiny little viz challenge

An exercise in visual storytelling

Try it yourself

Post a topical series of visualisations on the social media platform of your choice.

Each piece of work should:

  1. Be clearly insightful and tell a great story

  2. Be suitable for the general public

  3. Be properly optimised for your chosen platform

  4. Be visually consistent - same layout, palette and font every time

  5. Ensure the tool used to build it is not obvious (see 4)

Example of a LinkedIn post by The Economist


I've had a little success with public data visualisation but in truth I was getting sporadic applause amongst other practitioners and almost no interest from a wider audience. I'm also awful at social media and just don't engage enough to build a solid network.

It prompted me to break down what the world's best data journalists do well and challenge myself to replicate it. Could learning from them improve engagement? Could it make me a better storyteller?

They do a lot right.

These teams often have to work at speed, which means they've thought very hard about workflow.

They pay careful attention to channel, which means they often create multiple versions of the same viz for print, online or adjusting to the quirks of each social media platform.

They have strong branding, which means they've establised a clear style guide and follow it to the letter.

Their work is almost always topical and engaging.

And finally, they never talk about tools. You'll never know how they built a visualisation or be able to discern their methodology.

This last part was really important to me. As you progress through a career in analytics, it starts to become clear that your prowess with the tools isn't the objective. In fact technical skill only gets you to the start line.

I used Figma to create a template for all visualisations in the series

Stakeholders want to make decisions based on your analysis, which is when storytelling becomes more important than tooling.

This exercise turned out to be much harder than I first thought. Designing for small spaces requires a relentless focus on simplification.

I've found myself rewriting titles 20 times, been frustrated that I can't use all of my viz arsenal in a tight space and often found this format very constraining.

On the flip side I'm working faster, the messaging is clearer and (most importantly) these cards have had way more engagement than my long form pieces.

There's no doubt it's helped to sharpen my stories and learn to de-clutter.

My progress

I chose to post my creations on LinkedIn, Reddit and occasionally Twitter, which use a square image format (1200 x 1200 pixels). I use a template created in Figma to ensure every piece is consistently sized and styled.

Tools used so far:
Excel,, Tableau, Qlik Sense, QGIS, Sankeymatic, Datawrapper

26 cards created

3,619 public comments

70,767 likes / upvotes / retweets


What's your favourite colour?

Figma (Dec '21)

Social media followers of top 3 business intelligence tools (Oct '21)

British drinking habits

Qlik Sense / Picasso.js (Oct '21)

People who finished Squid Game

Excel + Figma (Oct '21)

Judging data visualisation

Figma (Oct '21)

How Manchester United makes money

Tableau (Oct '21)

Doing #dataviz like a pro

Figma (Sep '21)

Reasons cited by employees for being at home or at the office

Excel + Figma (Sep '21)

Scaring us got lucrative. Market share of movie genres (Jul '21)

Share of property sales in England & Wales (Jun '21)

UK searches for overseas accommodation

Tableau (Jun '21)

Percentage of workers who never work from home

Tableau (Jun '21)

A very British summer. Search interest in barbecues vs. average UK temperature

Tableau (Jun '21)

What animal could you beat in a fight?

Tableau (May '21)

How Apple makes money

Sankeymatic (May '21)

If the Earth was flat

Qlik Sense + Figma Isometric (May '21)

Vaccine rollout in Bristol (April 2021)

Tableau + QGIS (Apr '21)

Jackpot. Bet365 CEO pay vs FTSE median

A calculator (Apr '21)

RIP Prince Philip

Datawrapper (Apr '21)

Working hours vs productivity

Tableau (Apr '21)

How I spend my time on data visualisation projects

Tableau (Mar '21)

The ICO bares its teeth. Companies fined for misuse of data (Mar '21)

Hot topics in analytics (Mar '21)

Who owns Britain? Share of population vs share of national wealth

Excel (Jan '21)

US Federal executions, 1929 - 2021 (Jan '21)

A brief history of the coup d'etat (Jan '21)