OpenVis Conference Takeaways


OpenVis Conf is a two-day, single track conference about the practice of visualizing data on the web. Speakers will discuss best practices for data processing, storytelling, visual design, code structure and implementation.”

I was lucky enough to attend this conference last month, and these are my takeaways:

Do not be limited by your tools

Often, developers will find themselves saying that something can’t be done because the toolset they use does not have that feature. This can severely limit your options when trying to convey a message through data visualization. Try to choose the right tool for the job, and decide what the outcome should be before choosing the tool.


Know who your audience is and simplify. Make a clear message that is easy to understand for the average person. Keynote speaker Amanda Cox from the New York Times recommends designing with empathy. Look at your visualization and find out how you can elicit an emotion. Find a way to help your reader understand your message.

Design around the “why”

Many times a team takes a dataset and tries to decide what they can do with it. It is far better to ask “why do we want to do this work?” Once you know why you want to visualize the data, your goals and desired outcomes, the what will become clear.

OpenVis was a great conference. I learned a lot, and was inspired to do more with my work. I hope to go back next year!