Solved by verified expert:FORMULATING YOUR BRIEFCONTEXTUAL THINKING ABOUT DIFFERENT SCENARIOSThis exercise involves you using imagination and logical reasoning to occupy the mindset of a visualiser facing the task of formulating a brief for different scenarios. Imagine you are given the challenge of creating a visualisation/infographic in each of the following made-up scenarios:THE SUBJECT: Texas Department of Criminal JusticeScenario A: A pro-capital punishment (local/national) newspaper reporting on the milestone of the 500th execution (pretend it is 2013, there have now been more than 500)Scenario B: Analyst staff at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reporting to senior management about aspects of their operationsScenario C: A campaign group looking to influence the debate about the ending of capital punishmentWebsite reference: Executed Offenders datasetPlease APA format and provide all the citation and references. This assignment should be 500-800 words.Please find chapter 3 attached. Please read chapter 3 and answer the above questions.
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Part B The Hidden Thinking
3 Formulating Your Brief
In Chapter 2 you learnt about the importance of process, taking on data visualisation challenges using a design
workflow to help you make good decisions. This third chapter initiates the process with formulating your
The essence of this stage is to identify the context in which your work will be undertaken and then define its
aims: it is the who, what, why, where, when and how. It can be as formal – and shared with others – or as
informal an activity as you need to make it.
The first contextual task will be to consider why you are producing this data visualisation – what is its raison
d’être? To answer this, you will need to define what triggered it (the origin curiosity) and what it is aiming to
accomplish (the destination purpose). Recognising that no visualisation projects are ever entirely free of
constraints or limitations, you will also need to identify the circumstances surrounding the project that will
shape the scope and nature of the project you’re about to undertake.
Following these contextual definitions you will briefly switch your attention to consider a vision for your
work. With the origin and intended destination mapped out you will be able to form an initial idea about
what will be the best-fit type of design solution. You will be introduced to the purpose map, which provides a
landscape of all the different types of visualisation you could pursue, helping you establish an early sense of
what you should pursue. To wrap up the chapter, you will allocate some time to harness the instinctive
thoughts you might have had about the ideas, images, keywords and inspirations that you feel could play a role
in your work.
Collectively this work will provide you with a solid foundation from which to best inform all your subsequent
workflow process stages.
3.1 What is a Brief?
In its simplest form a brief represents a set of expectations and captures all the relevant information about a
task or project. It is commonly associated with the parlance of project management or graphic design, but in
data visualisation the need to establish clarity about the definitions and requirements of a project is just as
relevant. This is about establishing the context of and vision for your work.
When you are working with clients or colleagues it will be in the interests of all parties to have a mutual
understanding of the project’s requirements and some agreement over the key deliverables. In such situations
you may have already been issued with some form of initial brief from these stakeholders. This could be as
informal as an emailed or verbal request or as formal as a template-based briefing document. Irrespective of
what has been issued you will get more value from compiling your own briefing document to ensure you have
sufficient information to plan your upcoming work.
If you are not working for or with others – essentially pursuing work that you have initiated yourself – you
clearly will not have been issued with any brief, but once again, it will be to your advantage to compile a brief
for yourself. This does not have to be an overly burdensome or bureaucratic task. I use a simple checklist that
is not only practically lightweight but also comprehensively helpful, comprising a series of question prompts
that I either answer myself or raise with those stakeholders with whom I am working.
For some beginners, this stage can feel somewhat frustrating. On the surface it sounds like a clerical prospect
when what you really want is just to get on with the good stuff, like playing with the data and focusing on
creativity. Understanding contextual matters, in particular before anything else, is too invaluable a practice to
neglect. All the decisions that follow in this workflow will be shaped around the definitions you establish now.
There may be changes but you will reap the benefits from gaining as much early clarity as possible.
3.2 Establishing Your Project’s Context
Defining Your Origin Curiosity
A worthwhile data visualisation project should commence from the starting point of a curiosity. According to
the dictionary definition, curiosity is about possessing ‘a strong desire to know or learn something’. This aligns
perfectly with the goal of data visualisation, defined in Chapter 1 as being to facilitate understanding. By
establishing a clear sense of where your project originated in curiosity terms, the primary force that shapes your
decision making will be the desire to respond effectively to this expressed intrigue.
‘Be curious. Everyone claims she or he is curious, nobody wants to say “no, I am completely ‘uncurious’, I
don’t want to know about the world”. What I mean is that, if you want to work in data visualisation, you
need to be relentlessly and systematically curious. You should try to get interested in anything and everything
that comes your way. Also, you need to understand that curiosity is not just about your interests being
triggered. Curiosity also involves pursuing those interests like a hound. Being truly curious involves a lot of
hard work, devoting time and effort to learn as much as possible about various topics, and to make
connections between them. Curiosity is not something that just comes naturally. It can be taught, and it can
be learned. So my recommendation is: develop your curiosity, educate yourself – don’t just wait for the
world to come to you with good ideas. Pursue them.’ Professor Alberto C airo, Knight C hair in
Visual Journalism, University of Miami, and Visualisation Specialist
A visualisation process that lacks an initially articulated curiosity can lead to a very aimless solution. After all,
what is it you are solving? What deficit in people’s understanding are you trying to address? Having the benefit
of even just a broad motive can help you tremendously in navigating the myriad options you face.
The nature of the curiosity that surrounds your work will vary depending on where it originated and who it is
serving. Consider these five scenarios where the characteristics differ sufficiently to offer different contextual
Perso nal intrigue – ‘I wonder what …’
Stak eho lder intrigue – ‘He/she needs to know …’
Audience intrigue – ‘They will need to know …’
Anticipated intrigue – ‘They might be interested in knowing …’
Po tential intrigue – ‘There might be something interesting …’
Let’s work through an illustration of each of these scenarios to explain their differences and influences.
Firstly, there are situations where a project is instigated in response to a curiosity borne out of perso nal
intrigue. An example of this type of situation can be found in the case-study project that I have published as
a digital companion to this book (book.visualisingdata.com) to help demonstrate the workflow process in
practice. The project is titled ‘Filmographics’ and concerns the ebb and flow of the careers of different movie
stars. You can find out more about it by visiting the book’s digital resources.
The reason I pursued this particular project was because, firstly, I have a passion for movies and, secondly, I
had a particular curiosity about the emergence, re-emergence and apparent disappearance of certain actors.
Expressed as a question, the core curiosity that triggered this project was: ‘What is the pattern of success or
failure in the movie careers of a selection of notable actors?’
This initial question provided me with immediate clarity: the goal of the visualisation would be to deliver an
‘answer’ to this question, to help me better understand how the career patterns look for the different actors
selected. In this case I am the originator of the curiosity and I am pursuing this project for my own interest.
Ultimately, whether this initially defined curiosity remains the same throughout the process does not really
matter. Quite often one’s initial expression of curiosity shifts considerably once data has been gathered and
analysed. When more research is carried out on the subject matter you become more roundly acquainted with
the relevance (or otherwise) of the trigger enquiry. You might alter your pursuit when you realise there is
something different – and potentially more interesting – to explore. You do not want to be anchored to an
enquiry that no longer reflects the most relevant perspective but it does offer at least a clear starting point – an
initial motive – from which the process begins.
Sometimes, the nature of the motivation for a personal intrigue-based curiosity is recognition of one’s
ignorance about an aspect of a subject that should be known (a deficit in ‘available’ understanding) more than a
defined interest in a subject that may not be known (possibly creating new understanding).
Let’s consider another scenario, still concerning movie-related subject matter, but to explain a different type of
curiosity. Suppose you work for a movie studio and have been tasked by a casting director to compile a oneoff report that will profile which actors are potentially the best option to cast in a major sci-fi movie that has
just been given the green light to begin production. You have certain criteria to follow: they have to be female,
aged 30-45, and must fit the description of ‘rising’ star. They must not have been in other sci-fi movies, nor
can they have any of the ‘baggage’ that comes with being associated with huge flops. Their fees should be
under $2 million. You go away, undertake the analysis, and compile a report showing the career paths of some
of the most likely stars who fit the bill.
This scenario has not come about through your own personal curiosity but instead you are responding to the
specific curiosity of the casting director. In undertaking this work you effectively inherit – take on – the
curiosity of others. They have briefed you to find the data, analyse it, and then present the findings to them.
This would be an example of curiosity born out of stak eho lder intrigue: work commissioned by a
stakeholder who is also the target audience (or is the prominent party among the intended audience). There is
no anticipation of interest here, rather it is known.
For the third scenario, you might work for a business involved in the analysis and commentary of the state of
the movie industry. Let’s imagine your company specialises in producing a dashboard that is shared with a
broad group of users comprising Hollywood executives, studio senior management and casting agents, among
others. The dashboard profiles all aspects of the industry, covering current trends and the career fortunes of a
wide range different actors, helping users to identify who is hot, who is not, who is emerging, who is
declining, who will cost what, who scores well with different audiences, etc.
The various indicators of information you are compiling and presenting on the dashboard are based on the
recognised needs of the professional curiosities these people (client users) will have about this subject matter
(movie career statuses). Given the diverse permutations of the different measures included, not all the
information provided will be of interest all the time to all who consume it, but it is provided and available as
and when they do need it. This would be an example of curiosity born out of audience intrigue – shaped
out of a combination of knowing what will be needed and reasonably anticipating what could be needed.
What you are working towards in situations like this is ensuring that all the relevant aspects of possible
curiosity can be brought together in a single place to serve as many needs as possible. There are similarities here
with the multitude of dials, displays and indicators in the cockpit of an aircraft. The pilot does not need all
that information as an immediate priority all the time, but may need access to some of the information in a
reactive sense should the situation arise. Additionally, this scenario may be typical of a varied and larger scale
audience in contrast to the more bespoke nature of a stakeholder intrigue scenario. You will rarely if ever be
able to serve 100% of the audience’s potential needs but you can certainly aspire to do your best.
Consider another similar scenario, but with a different setting used to illustrate a more subtle distinction.
Suppose I am as a graphics editor working for a newspaper. One of the topics of current attention might
concern the relatively late-career breakthrough of a certain actor, who has almost overnight moved from roles
in relatively modest TV shows to starring in cinematic blockbusters. It is decided by the assignments editor
that I will work on a graphic that examines the fortunes of this actor’s career alongside a selection of other
actors to provide contrast or draw comparisons with.
On this occasion the trigger is not necessarily emerging from personal intrigue. I have essentially been issued
with the requirements: even if I agree with the idea or had a similar thought myself, the organisational
relationship decrees that others will instruct me about which tasks to work on. A stakeholder – the assignments
editor (or others in the editorial hierarchy) – has determined that this is a topic of interest and worth exploring.
However, in contrast to the stakeholder intrigue scenario, here the stakeholder is not the intended audience. It
is not necessarily even a curiosity they have themselves. The motive for this work is likely driven by the
machinations of current affairs: what is newsworthy and likely to be of some interest to readers? Therefore, the
belief is that this analysis (looking at this actor’s career path compared with others) is aligned to the current
entertainment news agenda.
‘The best piece of advice, which is “always be curious,” came from Steve Duenes, who has led the graphics
team at the New York Times for more than a decade. Being curious covers the essence of journalism:
question everything, never make assumptions, dig. You can’t make great visualizations without great
information, so make sure your reporting leads you to visual stories that are interesting, surprising,
significant.’ Hannah Fairfield, Sr. Graphics Editor, The New York Times
This would be an example of curiosity born out of anticipated intrigue. The audience has not explicitly
asked for this and does not necessarily need it. However, it is perceived to be relevant in the context of the
news cycle and informed judgement has been used to anticipate there should be sufficient interest among the
target audience about this topic. Sometimes you will work on projects where you have almost to imagine or
assume what appetite exists among an audience rather than just respond to an expressed need.
Most of the projects I work on will be driven by stakeholders asking me to create a visualisation to
communicate understanding to others (not necessarily them), as per the ‘audience’ and ‘anticipated’ intrigue
scenarios. The secondary role of the ‘filmographics’ project, that I defined as emerging from and serving a
personal intrigue, will also be to pique the interest of other movie fans. Again, this is based on anticipated
intrigue more than known audience intrigue.
The final scenario of curiosity goes back to our role as an individual. Let’s say I am interested in data
visualisation and also interested in movies and I discover a clean dataset full of rich content about movies and
actors. This sounds like a compelling opportunity to do something with it because I am convinced there will
be some nuggets of insight locked inside. I might not have determined a specific curiosity yet, as my entry
point, but I will be able to establish this later once I have had a closer look at what potential the data offers.
This would be a situation where curiosity is born out of po tential intrigue – potential because I just do
not know explicitly what it will be yet. Sometimes, in your subject of study or in the workplace, perhaps if
you work with collections of survey results or findings from an experiment, you might find yourself with the
opportunity to explore a dataset without any real prior sense of exactly what it is you are looking to get out of
it. You are initially unclear about the precise angle of your enquiry but you will explore the data to acquaint
yourself fully with its qualities and generally research the subject. From there you should have a better idea of a
more specific curiosity you might pursue. In effect, this scenario would then switch into more personal
intrigue (if it remains just for yourself) or anticipated intrigue (if you might share it with others).
This final scenario is the only one whereby the availability of and access to data would arrive before you have
articulated a specific curiosity. In all the other scenarios outlined, the data you need will typically be sought as a
response to the curiosity. Even in the lattermost scenario about potential intrigue, data itself does not just fall
from the sky and into your lap(top). The sheer fact that you have a dataset to work with will be because
somebody else, at an earlier moment in time, was interested in measuring an activity, recording it, and making
the collected data available. That in itself could only have arisen from their own curiosity.
The potential intrigue type of curiosity might also extend to situations where you simply have a desire to
practise your visualisation skills, experimenting and trying out new techniques with some sample data. In
this scenario the incentive is more to learn from a new experience of working through a visualisation process
and may not necessarily have the same drivers as when definable audiences exist
Why do these different scenarios of curiosity have such an important role to play? Firstly, they provide clarity
about the angles of analysis that you might be pursuing. As you will see later, even in the smallest and
seemingly simplest dataset, there are many possibilities for conducting different types of analysis. The burden
of choosing is somewhat eased by knowing in advance what might be the most interesting and relevant analysis
to focus on. Secondly, the different scenarios described all present slightly different characteristics in the
dynamics of the people involved. Who are the stakeholders and what is their interest? Who are the intended
recipients – the audience – and what is their interest? As you have already seen – and will keep seeing – the
involvement of people creates such influential forces (good and bad) shaping your visualisation thinking. You
therefore need to know about how those forces might materialise from the outset.
Identifying Your Project’s Circumstances
Defining your project’s circumstances involves identifying all the requirements and restrictions that are
inherited by you, imposed on you or determined by you. These are the different pressure points that establish
what you can or cannot pursue and what you should or should not pursue. Much of this contextual thinking is
therefore associated with the aim of ambition management.
There are so many hidden variables and influences in a visualisation project that the end viewer never gets to see
and often does not appreciate. It is natural for them to assess a project through the lens of an idealised context
free of restriction, but there are always limitations, external influences and project-specific factors that affect the
shape of the final work.
When starting a project you will find that not all the circumstances that could have an influence on your work
will prove to be as identifiable, definable or fixed as you might like. Some things change. Some things can only
be recognised once you’ve become a little more acquainted with the nature of your task. As I stated in the
previous chapter, doing t …
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