Meeting 25th February 2019

Visual Vocabulary Discussion Session

This was a presentation and discussion session, covering visual vocabulary (deciding what graphics to use with your data), applications to big data, graphics tools and infographics, with lots of examples. Harriet and Polly ran the session with lots of interaction from the audience (Thank you!). We have attached the slides which were presented here: VisualVocab_Feb25th-20ktc47

There was additional discussion on actually designing your visualisation. Andy Kirk’s webinar – Mastering the Art of Data Visualisation Design – was recommended, as were the books, courses and resources from Edward Tufte. We will look into getting a seminar on the subject if we can find a suitable speaker – recommendations please!

We also discussed infographics and I was particularly interested to hear that some journals do encourage this sort of graphic – indeed, the BMJ actually has a member of staff to design infographics and data visualisations, Will Stahl-Timmons, and we found a good example of his work in a blog post.

The following sites were also recommended – leaning towards the data journalism side with some neat examples:  “explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays. By wielding original datasets, primary research, and interactivity, we try to thoroughly explore complex topics.” “We help brands turn data into interactive stories and analytics tools”


Thanks to all who came to the session and I hope that it was of interest to you. As always, we would love your feedback and please do let us know if you have ideas for sessions you would like to see run ( We really want these sessions to be useful for the group and can only do that with your input too!

Upcoming Meetings Feb – April 2019

Our next meeting will be February 25th at 12:30 – 13:30 in Room 4.10, 35 Berkeley Square (Graduate School of Education) and will be on Visual Vocabulary.

For our March meeting we are promoting the JGI talk on Wednesday 20th March 13:00-14:00 – “Automating Data Visualisation” by Nick Holliman, Professor of Visualization, Newcastle University & Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute. The event is free but you must register for a ticket on Eventbrite.

On April 30th at 12:30 – 13:30 in Room 4.10, 35 Berkeley Square (Graduate School of Education) we will have a talk from James Staley on data visualisation techniques using R.

Meeting 12th December 2018

12th December – “The Clifton Suspension Bridge Dashboard, Data Visualisation from the Sublime to the Ridiculous”

This meeting featured a talk from Sam Gunner: ‘The Clifton Suspension Bridge Dashboard, Data Visualisation from the Sublime to the Ridiculous’.

Talk overview

“During the Clifton Suspension Bridge Dashboard Project, we employed a wide spectrum of different data visualisation techniques.  At one end was the time series database visualisation software Grafana, an open source web interface that provides a very intuitive way of visualising and disseminating time series data.  At the more imaginative end, the JGI commissioned two artists to convert the data into music, and the double robotic harp in the shape of the Clifton Suspension Bridge that they created (although possibly stretching the definition of data visualisation) has proved to be an incredibly successful mechanism for publicising the project and educating the general public, in this case in the field of Infrastructure Health Monitoring.

In my talk I’ll discuss the technical aspects of both these types of data visualisation, and hope to demonstrate their power, especially when used together.” Sam Gunner

Some more information about the Clifton Suspension Bridge Harp can be found in the report on the JGI website.

Meeting 13th September 2018

13th September 2018

In this session we watched a TEDtalk and had some flash presentations.
For those who weren’t able to make it, here’s the link to the TED talk by Beau Lotto that we discussed: Thanks for the really interesting discussion of how visual perception and optical illusions interact with data vis!
Related to this, we highlighted artist Luke Jerram’s current exhibition “The Impossible Garden” in the University Botanic Garden, a set of experimental sculptures exploring visual phenomena, open until 25th November ( Luke will also be delivering this year’s Richard Gregory Memorial Lecture at 6pm on Tuesday 13th November, titled “Exploring the Edges of Perception”. Details here:
Thanks too to our presenters. This year we’re introducing a new show-and-tell format, with three-minute lightning presentations. These can be about anything you like, such as a visualisation you’ve seen and liked, a tool you’ve used, a project you’ve been working on or a problem you’d like help with. The idea is that these are low pressure and should require minimal preparation. We think it worked really well, so do let us know if there’s something you’d like to share at a future meeting. Having said that, there’s no obligation to present, so if you’d like to just come along and watch, that’s fine too.
We also discussed an upcoming opportunity to influence the data visualisation infrastructure available at the University’s new Temple Quarter site. Do let us know if you’ve seen an exciting data visualisation set-up elsewhere that you’d like to bring to Bristol.
Finally, Polly announced a Tableau workshop she’s arranged for 7 November 2018 10.00-12.00 in the Seminar Room, Beacon House. This is one of our most requested training topics, so sign up here if you’d like to learn more: