Life dot plots

What a graphic can tell you

(May 31, 2006)  Originally written for Creating Passionate Users blog

I love looking at things in a new way.  More to the point, I love it when I see things about the world that I thought I knew... but then realize there's more to the story. 

And for the past few years I've been doing various pieces of research into information visualization--the science and art of making complex information visually perceivable.  It's cool, it's fun, and every so often you learn something really, really interesting.

I was just sort of doodling the other day in Powerpoint.  (If you must know, I was trying to prepare a talk to give at some university, and I started wondering how many dots you could usefully squeeze onto a Powerpoint slide.) 

Now that sounds crazy: doodling in Powerpoint?  Yeah, I know.  But come to think of it, why not?  It's got a bunch of okay tools for drawing and while you probably won't make great art, it's fine for quick sketching.  You won't confuse the output with a masterwork in oil or water color, but it's really great for a quick sketch.   And it IS the tool I spend a lot of time using, so I've grown pretty accustomed to its idiosyncracies. 

So I drew a bunch of dots.  Then it hit me--if a dot stood for a day, what would my life look like as a set of dots on the screen? 

(You can click on each image to see it full-size.) 


If that's 20 years worth of days, then what would the rest of my life look like?  Could I fit a lifetime's worth of days onto a Powerpoint slide? 

And how would you think of your life in terms of segments?  I fooled around some more and came up with this as a way of thinking about the various parts of my career. 


I certainly hope that my life and career last more than 60 years!  Nevertheless, I found this an intriguing way of looking at the progress of your life.

Or, to put it more pragmatically, where's your dot?

Question for you:  What information graphic was most informative / influential / insightful for you?  Was there a great piece of infoviz that really just did it for you?


Return to Dan Russell's home page