P4 Process Book (Personal data dashboard)

Data collection

When we were told to collect weather data along with two other variables each day for the entire month of March, my mind immediately went to “Mood.” Having grown up in California, coming to Pittsburgh was a total culture (weather?) shock, and I remember feeling dreary and miserable during the first few snowy months I experienced here. Thus, I was definitely curious to see what kinds of interactions weather and mood could have if I actually tracked them together for a month. So, for Weather, I tracked high and low temperature and any weather events that occurred each day (e.g. rainy, sunny, cloud). For my third variable, I originally considered a couple options that I thought might be interesting—namely sleep hours, but I realized my wildly irregular sleep schedule might not lead to very useful data—before deciding on “Productivity.” I wanted to know how the weather, my mood, and my productivity levels interact, because these are three things that come into play every single day. During COVID times especially, I often find myself wondering if a better mood makes me more productive or vice versa, so these were definitely variables of interest.

My weather/mood/productivity journal for the month of March.

Visualization sketches Part I: Physicalizing!

To kick of the data visualization portion of the project, we gathered on campus with the rest of the class to play around with various materials and tools—many of them callbacks to our childhoods, like beads, pipe cleaners, and legos—in order to explore the physical nature of data. We broke into small groups, and along with Nick and Carolyn, I had the opportunity to try and portray my understanding of a “day” in an abstract and creative manner. After playing around with materials for a while, we decided to work with pipe cleaners and various types of beads.

The physicalization Nick, Carolyn, and I created.

Visualization Sketches Part 2: Putting Pen to Paper

After engaging in this fun and thought-provoking physicalization exercise, I headed home with renewed vigor. Over the weekend, it was time to start exploring some other visualizations at different levels of scale: days, weeks, and months. Using pen and paper, a medium I’d always been a little more comfortable with than physical objects, I set to work trying to create as diverse of a set of sketches as I could. Vicki had preached the importance of breadth, so I wanted to try a ton of ideas to see what sticked.

Left: visualizing a day; Center: visualizing a week; Right: visualizing a month.

Taking pen sketches a step further

For my next pen sketch iterations, I decided to start using some of the actual data I had collected over the past month. Something that really helped me begin considering these variables more was the Dear Data assignment. For the span of a week in April, I tracked the exact same variables I had monitored throughout March. When I began playing around with my numbers and previous sketches, I decided to carry over the pictographic elements, the bars, and some additional annotations in the form of “special events.” One thing I was curious about testing was the influence of special events on my other variables, and since Spring Carnival was smack dab in the middle of this week of data, I definitely had some special events to work with.

The Dear Data postcard I sent to my partner, Tai.
Left: exploring the concept of “panels” that depict weather, productivity, and mood; Right: playing with the idea of “mood curves” that can go inside circles to depict both productivity and mood in a simplified way.
My third iteration of a full month view.

Digital Iterations

When digitizing, my first priority was finding a way to make my colors less contrasting with the faces. To do so, I made my colors more pastel-y and slightly less opaque, and I played around with the hues so that the color scale was easy to distinguish and none of the colors were too jarring or different.

My first digital iteration.
My second digital iteration, with outlier days and my editorial assertion worked in.
Just a sampling of some of the various waves and curves I tested out!
Left: the claustrophobic feeling induced by the purple wave being right above the “1”; Right: the overlap I wound up going with to avoid any squeezed feeling.

Final Dashboard

And with all that done, here was my final version of the dashboard! I was thrilled with all the progress that had taken place since my first sketch, and I was really grateful when my work was received well during the final crit.

My final dashboard!

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