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Great Graphs: 20 Hours of Data Visualization Lessons over 12 Months with 14 Instructors

Updated on: Sep 5th, 2018
Dashboards, Data Visualization, Presentations, Reports

As I head into my fifth year of running my own data design company, I’ve got some exciting news to share: Today, I’m launching Great Graphs, which is my third online course!

Depict Data Studio's Great Graphs course logo.

This course is about classic data visualization principles, practical software how-tos, and advanced techniques like applying data visualization principles to reports, slideshows, infographics, and dashboards.

I’ve spent the past 10 years teaching myself all of these tricks. I took seminars. I checked out books from the library. I sat through hundreds of (really bad) conference presentations. I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. The course is a shortcut. I’ll teach you what it took me a decade to learn on my own.

20 Hours of Content Over 12 Months

We’ll go broad and deep. You’ll learn about everything from choosing the right chart type for your desired takeaway message, to formatting that chart so that your message shines, to combining multiple graphs in dashboards, infographics, slideshows, reports, and one-pagers.

You’ll get access to 20 hours of training, which is the equivalent of getting a week-long workshop or conference. Or, put another way, you’ll get ~30 minutes of brand new content each week for an entire year, which is the equivalent of getting a webinar a week for an entire year.

You’ll have the option to register for monthly “office hours” sessions. You can submit your drafts in advance and get feedback from me and from your fellow tribe members in a relaxed, supportive setting. You don’t have to produce awesome visuals in a vacuum. Take advantage of your growing network of datavizzers!

You’ll also have the option to register for a one-on-one consultation with me. Thanks to the magic of screensharing, we can look at your individual datasets and projects together. You can bounce ideas off me. You can ask me all of your embarrassing dataviz questions. We can build before/after makeovers from your unique projects together.

Learn from a Team of 14 Instructors

Bonus! You’ll hear from me and from guest experts. The guest experts work in a variety of different industries and they specialize in a variety of different software programs.

Guest experts include:

  • Lyssa Becho
  • Isaac Castillo
  • Amy Cesal
  • Chris Lysy
  • Kylie Hutchinson
  • David Keyes, Ph.D.
  • David Napoli
  • Emma Perk
  • Echo Rivera, Ph.D.
  • Sheila B. Robinson, Ed.D.
  • Elissa Schloesser
  • Jon Schwabish, Ph.D.
  • Deven Wisner

What We’ll Cover

The first topic is Analyze Your Audience. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all visualization. You’ll need to tweak, tweak, tweak to get the approach right for each of your difference audience types. You’ll learn what types of questions to ask during the planning phase of your project, like whether your viewers are technical or non-technical, what types of comparison data points could be provided, and whether your audiences are expecting a story.

Want to take a sample class? Here’s one of the lessons about customizing visualizations for your audience:

The second topic is Choose the Right Dissemination Format. You’ll think about which format–a report, dashboard, infographic, one-pager, etc.–is best for each type of audience that you’re trying to reach. You’ll get downloadable worksheets like my Audience Crosswalk and Communications Plan.

We’ll spend several weeks on Choose the Right Chart. Chart-choosing because this is such an important skill–and a skill that must be practiced over time (not learned overnight). You’ll learn practical skills for exploring preliminary patterns with sparklines, data bars, and heat tables in regular ol’ spreadsheet programs. You’ll also learn techniques for transforming tables into visuals, for avoiding a (boring) report that’s just full of bar charts, and for experimenting with new-ish chart types like tile grid maps and Sankey diagrams.

Want to take another sample class? By now, most people recognize that pie charts are rarely the best approach. But it’s not good enough to tell you to avoid pie charts. You need to know what to replace them with. Here’s one of several lessons where we practice transforming pie charts into graphs that are legible, informative, and look great:

In Select a Software Program, I’ll provide an overview of my favorite software programs so you can understand the strengths and weaknesses of the major players in the market.

In Tell a Story, you’ll revisit the best strategies for interpreting data, like using a dark/light contrast, a storytelling title and subtitle, and an annotation.

In Declutter, I’ll give you permission to delete a lot of unnecessary ink! You’ll also learn about the finer points of decluttering that I never have time to cover during workshops, like decluttering visuals for scientific journals.
In Declutter, I’ll give you permission to delete a lot of unnecessary ink! Here's a before and after example.
In Color, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek into designer jargon like RGB, HEX, PMS, and CMYK codes, oh my! You’ll learn how to read your existing style guide. I’ll also cover techniques that I never have time to cover during workshops, like how to choose color palettes from scratch for your reports, slideshows, and dashboards if you don’t have a style guide. You’ll also learn about 508 compliance, like how to test your visuals for sufficient foreground/background contrast, colorblindness legibility, and grayscale legibility using accessibility checkers.

In Text, you’ll learn the basics like writing titles, subtitles, and annotations that encapsulate your key finding. You’ll also learn advanced nuances, like when to use right, left, centered, or justified text; when to use title case, sentence case, or all caps; and how to strategically place text beside graphs (rather than making viewers search through long paragraphs to find your key phrases). We’ll also measure your draft’s reading grade level and practice translating the research methods terminology we learned in grad school for the non-researchers who are using our data.

In Before/After Data Visualization Makeovers, we’ll apply the skills you’ve learned in previous segments. You’ll see “before” graphs that are similar to graphs I’ve encountered while consulting to foundations, nonprofits, universities, and government agencies over the past decade. Then, you’ll see how I choose different chart types, declutter, and apply color and text strategically to complete overhaul each graph.
In Before/After Data Visualization Makeovers, we’ll apply the skills you’ve learned in previous segments.
In Getting Started with Excel, we’ll build a chart from scratch and overhaul the outdated default settings with intentional edits. You’ll learn where to enter your custom color codes into Excel, how to add titles (hint: not with that awful built-in title), and the pros and cons of different ways of transferring our completed graphs from Excel into Word or PowerPoint.

Ann K. Emery on Getting Started with Microsoft Excel

In Advanced Excel Vizardry, you’ll learn how to create advanced visuals from scratch, like dot plots (with and without directional arrows), tile grid trend line maps, waffle charts, diverging stacked bar charts, population pyramids, small multiples charts, and more. Yes, you’ll get to download the templates for each of these charts.

Ann K. Emery on Advanced Excel Vizardry

In Getting Started with Tableau, guest expert Deven Wisner will walk you through the building blocks of Tableau, like exploring license types, downloading Tableau, and connecting your data source to Tableau.

In Doing Even More with Tableau, guest expert Chris Lysy will teach you about visualizing lots of data in a small amount of space; choropleth maps; and creating narrative tooltips and action-based labeling).

In Getting Started with R, guest expert David Keyes will walk you through the building blocks of using R for data visualization.

In Creating One-Page Reports, guest experts Emma Perk and Lyssa Becho will teach you how to make your key takeaway messages shine–in just a page!

In Effective Presentation Design, guest expert Echo Rivera will teach you about your #1 enemy to delivering effective presentations, how default templates set you up to fail, and what to do instead of using a template.

In Engaging Audiences with Graphs, guest expert Sheila B. Robinson will walk you through a step-by-step process for building a graph from scratch, editing that graph, and transferring it into a slideshow program like PowerPoint. Then, in PowerPoint, she’ll teach you how to appropriately animate or “storyboard” your slides so that your audience’s eyes are glued on key pieces of the graph.

In Creating a Beautiful Report Cover, guest expert Elissa Schloesser will teach you about selecting images, fonts, and colors; and how to use a hierarchy and visual interest to improve your page layout.

In Better Tables, guest expert Jon Schwabish will teach you 10 rules of better tables. He’ll also provide a before/after table makeover. Just because we’re pro-graph doesn’t mean that we’re anti-table. Your documents will still need tables, so make sure they’re designed well.

In Visualizing with an Unconventional Medium, guest expert Amy Cesal will teach you how modeling with clay and other non-computer approaches can improve your computer-based visualizations.

In Effective Reporting, guest expert Kylie Hutchinson will teach you why one-size-fits-all reports aren’t always effective–and what to do instead. You’ll learn about layering, identifying key messages, and making key messages sticky.

In Uncertainty in Data Visualization, guest expert David Napoli will share insights for producing visualizations with unpredictable datasets.

In Data Placemats, I’ll teach you what a data placemat is; how to design placemats; how to facilitate a data interpretation meeting with stakeholders using your placemats; and how to use the feedback gathered during the interpretation meeting to develop a better final product like a final report or slideshow.

In Data Placemats, I’ll teach you what a data placemat is and how to design them.

Finally, in Dashboard Design, I’ll introduce you to dashboard types and their corresponding software tools. You’ll see examples of static and interactive dashboards. You’ll also see examples of single or series dashboards. You’ll learn about the pros and cons of each type of dashboard and which software program is best suited to produce each type.

Phew! That’s over 20 hours of content. Can you see why I’m spreading these techniques over an entire year?? You can’t master these skills overnight. You need to learn slowly and steadily. You’ll be able to use these skills forever.

Limited Openings & Limited Enrollment Window

Enrollment to Great Graphs is limited. You deserve to have your questions answered, and you’ll get my full attention in a small setting. I’m only taking 100 students. My last course sold out within 7 days.

And I’m only offering the Great Graphs course once a year. When it’s open, it’s open! But when it’s closed, it’s closed. This is your only chance all year.


Reserve your spot before they’re gone.

Teaching others is the highlight of my career. I hope you’ve enjoyed gaining new skills as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them. Thanks for being part of the journey. –Ann

More about Ann K. Emery
Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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