data sketch|es

How we started


One had just quit her job to try freelancing, and wanted to use the extra time to experiment and explore. The other wanted to create more actual projects; she had only made one standalone project in the past year that wasn't a tutorial example. And while bemusing these situations one day in June, Shirley came up with the idea of a twelve-month collaboration.

Each month, we choose a topic and aim to have a visualization completed by the end of the month. Within the topic, we're free to do whatever we want; a perfect opportunity to create, experiment, and have fun. The collaboration also gives us an encouraging sounding board, and a motivating pressure: a mutual reluctance of letting the other down.

And because a data visualization is more than just the end result, we decided to keep track of the process - from the data preparation, to the sketching of ideas, to the execution. Through the write-ups, we share our choices, mistakes, and screenshots made throughout the month, with each other and with anyone.

We hope you enjoy our exploration, experimentation, and adventure - as much as we've enjoyed doing them.

Nadieh in Mickey's car

Born and raised in the Netherlands, now living in a small town of ±5000 people right outside of Amsterdam. I graduated as an Astronomer, but after finishing my Master's Degree I went into the world of consulting. As a data scientist working for Deloitte I came into contact with many different industries; fast-food, retail, insurance, FMCG. Each of these had enormous amounts of data from which insights were just waiting to be found. As an external party to each company we worked for we often had to present our results. And what better way to explain the results of an algorithm or analysis than to visualize the data. This is how I already (unconsciously) got into contact with data visualization.

However, as far as I was aware, data visualization was just a small sub-part of data analytics. And while on a data science conference in November 2014 I was mulling over what I wanted to do in the next year. Analytics was fun yes, but I knew that it wasn't truly my passion. Not something I would do in my free time as well, outside of work. And then I went to a (great) presentation by Mike Freeman. On his first slide he called himself a "Data Visualization Specialist". And then it hit me. You could do data visualization as a thing on its own!? I knew immediately that I wanted to be able to name myself a data visualization designer or specialist one day as well.

And from that day on I consciously started with data visualization. Every moment of my free time I spend on learning: reading books, creating personal projects, experimenting with new visualization ideas and writing tutorials for my website

After one more year with Deloitte, trying to specialize more and more I changed jobs and started working for Adyen, which is a payment service provider (a sort of middle-man between you paying and the shop receiving its money), as a full-time data visualization designer. However, after a year I realized that I missed the diversity of different industries, clients and data that I had as a consultant. So I decided to take the plunge and become a freelancing dataviz designer. And so far it's been amazing to be able to do collaborations and create for so many different clients :) But I still spend all of my evenings and weekends on personal projects, like this one! So I guess I've truly found my passion ^^

san francisco
Shirley dancing to her own music

When I was a kid, I loved two things: math and art; I wanted to be a painter or Pixar animator when I grew up. When I entered high school, I took an exhaustive number of math and science classes. By the end of the four years, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them.

So naturally, my eighteen-year-old self decided that business would be the exact opposite and be my raison d'être.

Fast-forward three years to my junior year, and I realized I abhored my business classes and adored the few Computer Science classes I took. When I completed my summer internship at an investment bank, I knew that I couldn't go back. I decided that I would focus my senior year on completing a CS minor and looking for a full-time job in software engineering.

(My friends told me they had expected this of me all along: "why did you even go into business, anyway?")

And somehow, miraculously, I landed a full-time position at Splunk post-graduation. (I was beside myself with relief and joy.) I was introduced to D3 as part of my job, and slowly fell in love with its genius. I adored D3 and the broader field of data visualization; they felt like a beautiful combination of art and code.

When I started at Illumio, I was happy with my technical knowledge, but wanted to apply it and build a long-term project from the ground up. Illumination allowed me to do that; I learned so much about teamwork, and the joys and pitfalls of building out a piece of the product from its inception.

I've recently left Illumio. I'm spending my time learning and exploring the potentials of data visualization, and its intersection of math, art, and code. I'm trying my hand at freelancing - something I've always wanted to do - and hoping that it'll give me the luxury of diversity in the projects I work on, and the opportunity to see what kind of industries and projects excite me (I believe us millennials call this "soul-searching.").

(My ex-coworkers also told me that freelancing was perfect for me, what with my restless wanderlust and all.)

It's a great unknown for me going forward, but I am comforted with a knowlege: I am doing exactly what I loved as a kid, and what I love as an adult. And I am excited to see where I go from here.