Makeover Monday Week 2 – Ann’s Take on Christopher’s Viz

This week’s Makeover Monday data set was the quarterly number of iPhone units sold by Apple dating back from FY Q3 2007 to Q4 2016.   The original viz and article bundled with the data set hints that Apple is struggling in more recent times.

As always, my goal in these retrospectives is the same: first approach as an interactor, someone who hasn’t been exposed to the data.  And along with that first blush interaction, document my thoughts/feelings and process.

The viz starts off very direct and journalistic.  Did Steve Jobs’ death make a difference?  The difference to “what” is described along additional text throughout the visualization.  Reading through leads me to the conclusion that it is iPhone sales and toward the bottom that’s confirmed through the more specific question.

The death date of Steve Jobs is clearly marked and the pattern of data nicely changes in conjunction.  Quarters are beginning to dip lower and lower below the X axis – what I am interpreting as zero.  If pressed to answer the question, I’d say “Yes” there is clearly some sort of impact of Jobs’ death on the fluctuation of quarterly iPhone sales.  But… that’s not where things end.

My analyst side is getting comfortable as I spend more time interacting with the visualization and I realize that Q1 isn’t displayed for any of the years.   And spending time in the tooltips I notice that the length of the lollipops must be based on the direct change in sales of units.  This seems to be making more recent years much more dramatic than when I look at the accompanying percentage changes.  A good example of this would be Q3 2010 & Q4 2010 compared to Q1 2016 & Q2 2016.  The percentage change between the first pair is 68% net positive with an increase of 5.7 million units.  The percentage change between the second pair is -31.5% (half the 2010 variance) and 23.59 million units.  So my brain is interpreting half the variance, but my eyes are seeing a bar 4 times as long.    Depending on which measure I’m using as my indicator, there’s two competing stories here.  We’ll leave it to Apple executives for the ultimate decision.

Now diving into the technical side of things aka the workbook itself.  The first thing I notice: we’ve got the arrow again!  Is this Christopher’s signature style?  Adding a floating image version of shapes?  It is definitely a handy trick I intend on stealing.  Next I notice the care taken to make a custom color palette.  I like how it is put into action in conjunction with the gray background.  The Apple aesthetic is being captured.  The last thing I notice – the line of Jobs’ death date is a sheet!  This is blowing my mind.  Once again my structured mind would be churning on how to make this part of the overall underlying viz and here Christopher has shifted into a different dimension by simply floating the line on top.  It’s these moments in our collaboration that I can feel my brain sweating.

I urge you to check out Christopher’s full visualization on his Tableau Public profile.


One thought on “Makeover Monday Week 2 – Ann’s Take on Christopher’s Viz

  1. Chris says:

    You are far too kind…the correct word for “shifting into a different dimension” is called “cheating” ;)! I spent too long researching and trying to figure out how to create a reference line on a vertical axis/date field (quickly realized you need a continuous date) and gave up! I hate the arrow by the way…it is a product of needing to draw attention to and once again laziness in not crafting a custom arrow (which can be easily accomplished in Word or Powerpoint). Your response is forthcoming…

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