Recently there have been a few tweets and blog posts in the community, focusing on the benefits of simplicity. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is the acronym of choice, and in my case I can add a couple of S’s (Seriously. Stop). KISSSS.

People talk about getting a certain “style” to their visualisation style, and I know my style just has to be simple as I lack creative flair and capability. However, I unintentionally cause myself problems by overthinking things, and #MakeoverMonday this week is a classic example.

The dataset

Andy Kriebel posted the original article and dataset on his blog here:

Attempt one

The NBC graph is nasty. It can’t get worse than that, can it?

Well… first quick draft was pretty damn grim.

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What was I thinking? Well – I was thinking everything, and at the same time I was thinking nothing. I always sort of panic into thinking that I need to try to create a dashboard, and interactivity is snazzy, so people will like that. Won’t they?

Well no, no they won’t. Not when it obscures the message. You could click the year of the Games to filter the map, and then click the country to filter the medal bar. The Running Total in the bottom right was just kind of there. It served no purpose. I needed to reel myself in, revisit the original viz and remember the core message.

Attempt two

It’s a shameless rehash of Andy Kriebel’s viz, but I’m cool with that because I just can’t see how to improve upon it. The original NBC viz was poor for a number of reasons, but the stand out for me was the fact that you couldn’t easily compare total medal count, by nation, and by colour of medal (i.e. Gold, Silver or Bronze). I just don’t think stacked bars lend themselves to that sort of comparison, so Andy’s viz just makes sense – and that, for me, is the essence of what data visualisation has to do.

So, how did I recreate the core chart? This isn’t one I needed to download, as it’s conceptually quite simple, although I’m sure the following steps will reveal some inefficiency.

Step one is simple. I know I want to break things up on the rows by Country, and I also know from a glance at the data that I want to use Country Group rather than Country, to ensure I consolidate countries which have evolved over time from disparate parts to singular entities – i.e. the merge of East and West Germany into a single, unified country.

Step two is understanding how to achieve that horizontal dual-axis mix of a line and a circle. It’s pretty straight forward. The way I do it is to drag Measure Values to columns, and then filter it:

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By unticking Number of Records and Rank, I know that I’m only charting the medal types. Note that I have moved Total to Dimensions, for reasons to be revealed in due course. Once that’s done, I duplicate Measure Values on the columns shelf, and then set the second pill to a Circle Chart type, and the first to Line:

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The Line element looks a bit screwed up, because it’s trying to join up each Country Group down the page. To fix that, I need to drag Measure Names to Path on the Line version of Measure Values:

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With that done, it’s just a case of right-clicking one of the Measure Values pills to select Dual axis, and then synchronising the axis on the top header. As Roy Walker would say: “It’s good, but it’s not quite right”:

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General formatting and sorting to resolve. First, let’s limit the view to only the top 25 nations. To do this, I just right-click Country Group in the rows shelf, select Filter and populate the Top tab as shown below:

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Then you just need to sort the top header in descending order to get the right sort order. Now for colouration, which is just a case of dragging Measure Names to the colour card on the Circle Measure Value shelf:

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Next, you just need to edit the colours on the Measure Names card to set the Medal types appropriately. A final clean-up to remove unnecessary grid lines, axis ticks, zero lines etc. gave the following look:

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Which was used as the sole worksheet in the final “dashboard”, and accompanied by a title, some footers and a couple of images to add a dash of creative flourish. Relatively speaking. With hindsight, I’d probably ditch the monochrome Olympic Rings in the top-right, but I won’t lose sleep over that.

So that’s what I did, and how I did it. Hope it helps someone out.

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