The Chart Gallery 1/10: An Interview with Adam Mico

Posted by Maddie Hall on 1/10/20 11:38 AM

In collection, insights, Newsletter, The Chart Gallery, interview

Welcome to a special edition of The Chart Gallery! Every Friday we're highlighting members of the data viz community, their favorite projects and sources for inspiration. Today we're excited to introduce another Tableau superstar...

Adam Mico!



Q & A

What do you want us to know about you?

I am a senior data analyst based out of Wisconsin. It was a career I have worked toward for around 6-7 years, but officially hired in the data analyst series 2.5 years ago (and recently reclassed to the top of that series in July). I've worked for the same employer over 20 years (disclaimer, all views are my own) and my journey had me hopping around several different jobs/careers before landing the position of my dreams. I am an active Tableau community member (#datafam, y'all), helping launch a private Tableau User Group at work, blog about data visualizing and create data visualizations in Tableau Public.

What makes you passionate about data viz?

This is an interesting question. I love what people can do with data. A bunch of nerds like me can, for the most part, look at a data table, use filters and see what we need to see, but we can make data approachable to the masses by using visualization as well as create fun 'art' pieces without needing a paint brush. Even more, having a strong community of experts supporting and you and looking to promote you makes Tableau more than a tech tool, it's a community dedicated to helping you find your purpose and helping you succeed, both professionally and personally.

How long have you been creating visuals?

I have been creating visualizations via charts in Excel and whatnot for well over a decade. It wasn't until I was introduced to Tableau about six years ago that I could see the crystal ball and the future of this tool (and me being able to leverage it) was so bright I had to wear shades – it was so much easier to use tons of data and make many more remarkable visualizations. I've worked with a few other data visualization tools, but Tableau offers everything I need and is pretty simple to determine how to begin using it if you have created visualizations applying other applications.



Adam's Creations

Boston Massachussetts Interactive Violent Crime Dashboard

I found a wonderful and interesting data set, which was relatively clean and included latitude and longitude, so it was easy to map. I spent about four hours dirtying my paws in the data before I knew what I wanted to visualize.


What were some pain points in creating the graphics?

Some of the data had a couple data validation and formatting issues, so I cleaned that up in Excel. Also, some of the locations had incorrect or incomplete latitude and longitude coordinates, so I wanted to fix that in the data set. It's very important to me to clean up as much as possible on the backend, so the visualization aspect is easier. After that, I played with the data tables in Tableau, went back to clean it up a little bit more until I was ultimately happy with the data. When I created the original visualization, I wanted to create a stunning density map that highlighted problem areas and played with the density/colors until I was happy with its appearance. After that, I built charts around it to add context.

Once published, Boston TUG (@bostontug) DM'd me that they liked the viz, but wanted to play with it because they had an idea to improve it. After a bit, they came back and gave me a bit of a layout thought, which would highlight things a little better; I completely agreed and recreated the viz with the new layout and wanted to add a transparent bar chart to overlay with the map to give it a cool effect. I was very happy with the end product (above) thanks to the notes shared by Boston TUG.

Note: This year I plan to take a little more time to wireframe my design (likely using PowerPoint) before I develop it into Tableau to make it cleaner and defined.


Elvis Presley: The Original UK Rock Idol


Elvis_ Original UK Rock Idol


This viz was a collaboration between Zach Bowders (@ZachBowders) and me. I loved his approach to clean design and wanted to incorporate some of that to a dataplusmusic viz.

For the visualization, I wanted to compare his UK and USA chart popularity while he was alive (chart success between 1954-1977). I used a number of data sources to gather singles charting success in the USA and UK. To my surprise Elvis had more hits and better singles charting in the UK compared to the USA. He never toured the UK because his manager was an illegal alien and feared he wouldn't be let back in the country if he left.

To determine values, I calculated the impact of each song using a point system providing points for chart peak and bonus points for each week at #1 to properly compare the strength of a hit -- there is a huge difference in a song that peaked at #38 and one that is #1 for several weeks, so that needed to be quantified. It took me at least eight hours to find and verify the data using the various reputable sources (mostly from the chart archives themselves) and come up with a system to determine a song's value.


What were some pain points in creating the graphics?

Developing the viz was moderately complex – there were a lot of songs and it was tricky comparing the UK and USA singles over so many songs and years and make the dashboard a manageable size. I knew I wanted to have an embedded video player to play the songs and charting. I determined to split up by five eras, so a person can click and image and jump through the eras. For some silly reason, I got the idea two lollipop charts with data in the middle; it made the chart very large with a lot of open space. Zach and I went back and forth and determined the dumbbell chart was perfect to compare a song's success in both countries, conserved space and looked pretty cool. For highlighting the biggest hits for each country, a dot plot was a cool look and offered a similarity of feel to the dumbbell charts while being a little different. The bottom chart I overlaid a line chart sized by a year's popularity to show a running total of song 'points' – it also satisfied the need to tie together all eras so a person can see the big picture. Under that is an area chart which shows popularity via hit songs through the years. To complete the viz, Zach had a great idea of adding borders around the video player and era images to make the viz pop a little more. In all, it took several hours and a few iterations of creating the viz before we released it.

This viz was not a Tableau Viz of the Day but was featured by Tableau across all social media platforms to promote dataplusmusic. It was a huge honor to be showcased on that level.

I'm proud of that viz because it tells a great story, is very interactive and loads of fun.


The Sandberg Game



I've been a huge fan of Brian Moore (@BMooreWasTaken) for a long time because he makes very stunning vizzes that require a lot of thought and ingenuity. I scrubbed data from a specific baseball game that was a major event for me growing up, but held on to the data because I could not figure out how to develop it into the story it deserved. The data grabbing and cleanup took about 35-40 minutes.

What were some pain points in creating the graphics?

Brian is exceptional at using mathematic concepts to add a lot of customization to vizzes and I knew this was needed to make this viz work. We spent some time mapping the outline for the viz and wanted to make it look like a retro newspaper article with interactivity and a way to follow the game through the viz. Unfortunately, due to a recent theme for data set, a lot of newspaper template vizzes were created… so we needed to figure out a different way. I developed a background using photo editing software for the viz, but was scraped to use a plain background to help elements pop more. For the intense customization, Brian spent many hours and we were back and forth off and on for several weeks until it was ready to publish. We detail the entire process in this blog.

The one thing that bums me a little but will be revisited later is not being able to animate it automatically. Tableau is beta-testing animations (or animated transitions) and should be available for public use sometime this year; the animations on this viz would be more complex due to using parameters (it will be fun to try once it MakeOverMonday becomes available for public use).

These vizzes (the three above) were chosen because I did not work in a vacuum and friends stepped up to help me create something better than I can create on my own. I learned collaborating with the right people who want to collaborate is fun, productive and forms deeper friendships. At work, I tend to work solo, but these results and the joy it gave me the desire to look to team up more at work the job more enjoyable and productive.


Adam's Favorite Visualizations on the Web
Global Temperature on the Rise

Global Warming – No Doubt, Global Temperature is on the Rise - Ramon Martinez

Ramon's viz was one of the 1st vizzes on Tableau Public I saw that really inspired me. It was beautiful, impactful and introduced me to page animations. You can see very clearly based on his successful and well-reasoned charting choices and analysis how global warming has shifted since the 1930s and is climbing at a scary rate. Everything about the design was shockingly good to me at the time and use of color was very eye catching. I downloaded the viz and realized for the 1st time that you can animate using the page shelf on Tableau desktop. This caused me to navigate more and update it for fun so every chart moves together. It made me consider the future of Tableau and how impactful a viz could be. It was Tableau's Viz of the Day and Week and pushed me to push harder on my own work.

Last year, I remixed it and shared my 'remixed' version on Tableau Public and featured this old viz as my Viz of the Week on my blog because of the impact it had on me.


Dashboard 2

A Helping Hand - Mariona Banyeres

Mariona doesn't publish frequently, but when she does it's a showstopper. This visualization is simply a work of math art with great analysis. Just looking at the analysis you can see the impact of struggling countries that need a place for refugees to settle (bottom chart) and a simple line chart above those to show how the USA is less hospitable for refugees as resettlement figured have dipped significantly since the 1980s. The staggering image was drawn with math using the flow of refugees from 11 countries for the last 10 years of data. This piece is gallery- worthy if hand-sketched, but to think this was created with data and provided a very creative and dramatic insight is awe-inspiring. After seeing this viz in more detail by going underneath the hood, I realized anything is possible with Tableau and it was really the 'hold my beer' data visualization tool.


The Golden Record

The Golden Record - Samuel Parsons

As shared earlier, I'm a dataplusmusic junkie. Sam created the most sensational music viz I ever experienced. His visualization based on the music sent into space in 1977 to act as an aural ambassador for earth. It is centered around a wonderfully complex radial chart/radial jitter highlighting each track's 18 data points (leveraging Spotify API) for all 27 song to ingeniously develop a highly technical yet effective and interactive custom (or bespoke) visualization. The viz connected with map of track origin, a music player and an incredible joy plot that details the musicality of a selected track with much more detail. It inspired me to make an Elvis 'radial player' using a radial bar chart to learn more about a hit song and play in a 'radial player' – this is much less technical than Sam's master work, but it was a lot of fun to develop. To fully appreciate Sam's viz check out his blog/video discussing its development.


Tableau Chart Examples

Tableau Chart Catalog - Kevin Flerlage

Kevin collaborated with many of Tableau's strongest data visualizers to share an epic 100 charts in a viz with links to the charts, which are all downloadable to study. These range from charts that can be made without advanced mathematics to those that require a bit of trigonometry – for the most part, the math behind the charts have been laid out in a blog by the original author or covered extensively by others. Save this as viz-piration if you want to develop a unique chart type or can't figure out what chart would frame your data.

Check out Adam's Grafiti Collection! 

Screen Shot 2020-01-09 at 12.50.16 PM

That's all for today's edition of The Chart Gallery.

These charts and more are all available at Grafiti - the search engine for charts, graphs & data!

Email us at with any questions, feedback and especially more charts.
Have a great week!
- The Grafiti Team