Data Visualization: The Stolen Art

Data Visualization: The Stolen Art

Data Visualization: The Stolen Art

Make no mistake about it, data visualization is an art form. I always enjoy sharing the anecdote that I have created literally hundreds of data visualizations, and to this day, not a single one of them has been perfect to everyone that saw it. There is always feedback, criticisms, and ideas about how to do it better.

That’s perfectly okay with me. It tells me the audience is engaged and that my work has the opportunity to start a conversation around data. When the feedback is constructive, sometimes I get a better idea about how to do something; other times there were explicit reasons for my choices and I politely deflect. I don’t take any of it personally because art is in the eye of the beholder, and data visualization is an art.

I imagine that’s what makes so many of us passionate about honing our craft. After all, not every job or practice makes you willingly want to practice on weekends and share your work with the world. For many of us, data visualization is our calling because it is the perfect balance between the left and right sides of our brain. With the proliferation of tools that are making the work of data visualization practitioners public, combined with those practitioners pushing to evolve their work, there is one trend I’ve seen that we need to collectively consider…

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The aspect of data visualization that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how much third party art has been integrated into public data visualizations. The topic has been on my mind for quite some time, but came to a head for me last week for two reasons.

First, there was a Makeover Monday about Donald Trump that featured many caricatures of his likeness. I’m not going to call out any specific pieces because I do not know the back story behind each one. Perhaps the art was purchased, the original artist provided permission to use their work in the data visualizations, or the data visualization author drew the cartoons themselves. However, I couldn’t help but wonder that unless the data visualization designer was resident Tableau cartoonist, Philip Riggs, that the art wasn’t original.

Makeover Monday is a phenomenal project started by Andy Cotgreave and Andy Kriebel (and now supported by Eva Murray) where one data visualization in the public domain is made over by a crowd of Tableau Public users each week. The program has given voices to many users and provided countless innovative ideas to learn from. I bring the topic of using others art to enhance your own up now in hopes that by being respectful, we will collectively maintain our credibility and maximize the opportunity to tell our stories.

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The second thing that finally pushed me to say something is a recent Tableau Public Viz of the Day by André Oliveira featuring the art of Banksy. My first instinct was that there was no way it was okay to just copy and paste these valuable works into a Tableau Public visualization. That prompted me to research the artist, and it turns out I was wrong. Banksy does not copyright their work and allows it to be used as long as the person using it does not imply it is their own. (not to mention that Banksy will not pursue legal action so they can protect their identify).

Here’s a look at the respectful and very-well done Tableau Public visualization.

Ironically, it turned out in this unique case that the third-party art was being applied appropriately. Banksy has the spirit of most Tableau Public authors who allow their work to be downloaded and borrowed from.

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