#SWDchallenge: your choice makeover


Less-than-ideal graphs are prominent in the world around us. Your challenge this month should be a fun one: find one of these and work to make it better. Improving upon an existing graph can be a great way to build your skills and reflecting on this process and sharing is a great way to also bring benefit to others.

As part of this month's #SWDchallenge, I have a few requests... First, be kind. A real person made the graph you will be critiquing and likely faced a number of constraints that simply don't exist in this sort of exercise. (For some great insight on this, listen to or read the transcript from Episode 1 of the SWD podcast, which focuses on the art of feedback in data visualization. In particular, check out Alex Selby-Boothroyd's response to the hurricane data viz challenge and the constraints his team at The Economist faced in creating the original graph.) It's easy to forget this and totally rip apart someone else's work. That said, there is great value in constructive critique (both giving and receiving), which can help us all become more effective when communicating visually with data.

Please share both the before and after. It's useful to see the original visual (cite source as appropriate), as well as your revamped version. Note also that these don't have to be major changes: minor improvements are often what is needed to take something from good to great. Full submission details can be found at the bottom of this post. Please do follow them, as it makes the manual process of pulling together the recap post a bit easier.

Finally, I'd love to not only see your makeover, but have you share insight into your thought process, something I suspect other readers will appreciate as well. A sentence or two (or a few) is great; if you find you want to write more, please feel free to post externally (if you don't have a dedicated spot to do so, you can post an article on LinkedIn) and provide the link for us to include in our recap. 

In case seeing some example before-and-afters would be helpful, below are a few historical posts where I've shared with my makeovers of less-than-ideal visuals I've encountered in the world around me:

You have until July 8th (by midnight PST) to create and share your makeover. Please do so following the instructions below.


  • Make it. Identify a graph and improve upon it using the tool of your choice. If you need help finding data, check out this list of publicly available data sources (for this particular challenge, you may find the curated content at viz.wtf inspiring). You're also welcome to use a real work example, just please don't share anything confidential.
  • Share it. Email your entry (please include both before & after) to SWDchallenge@storytellingwithdata.com by the deadline. Attach your image(s) as a .PNG. Put any commentary you’d like included in our follow up post in the body of the email (e.g. what tool you used, any notes on your methods or thought process you’d like to share); if there’s a social media profile or blog/site you’d like mentioned, please embed the links directly in your commentary (e.g. Blog | Twitter). If you’re going to write more than a paragraph or so, I encourage you to post it externally and provide a link or summary for inclusion. Feel free to also share on social media at any point using #SWDchallenge.
  • The fine print. I reserve the right to post and potentially reuse examples shared.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with! Stay tuned for the recap post in the second half of July. Check out the #SWDchallenge page for past challenges and recaps.