Makeover Monday – Week 8, 2017: The European Potato Industry

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Time for a European dataset once again. And if you’ve ever been around me eat breakfast, lunch or dinner time, you’ll know that I simply LOVE to eat. Potatoes feature right at the top of my list of all-time favourite vegetables. But in recent times people have shunned the humble potato for fear it will make fat (what???). So to ensure potatoes get a bit of love (it was Valentine’s Day only last week after all), this week is all about potatoes…

The original ‘viz’ comes from a Eurostat report, which contains a bunch of tables, pie charts and line charts. Our focus in particular is on these two beauties:

What I like about them:

  • they’re simple and everyone would know how to read them, looking at the intersection of the rows and columns to understand each value in its appropriate context
  • countries are listed in alphabetical order, which makes it easy to find specific ones the reader may be looking for
  • equally, years (in table 1) are in chronological order
  • having years on columns (table 1) makes sense for reading tables, rather than stacking them in a single column
  • The report clearly states all the data sources and provides links to them

What I don’t like about them:

  • no interactivity, tables don’t appeal to me visually, they don’t draw my attention and don’t make me want to look at this further
  • by shading each cell according to the value, this could have been easily turned into a highlight table which would be better than the uninspiring black and white data sheet
  • it’s very hard to compare countries over time and across metrics as I have to keep values in memory (i.e. in my brain) while searching for those values I want to compare them to, then calculate stuff and make sense of the results. A simple bar chart or line chart would help me a lot to better understand this dataset.

What I did:

  • first I needed some inspiration… I wanted a fresh colour palette to use for this week’s challenge so I wasted hours searched on Pinterest and stumbled across this beautiful photo by Chris Court Photography. Perfect!


  • so as a first step, I created my ‘French Fries and Ketchup’ palette for Tableau. It was fun 🙂


  • then I went back to pen and paper to draft some ideas for my dashboard and created my first version in Tableau. It was a pretty busy viz, mostly because I love the colour palette and wanted to use it to the max :-). I sent Andy a screenshot of the viz and got some rather frank feedback on my viz. And I’ll admit, it was a bad viz, because I just threw everything at it without thinking about what questions I wanted to answer.
  • so back I went to pen and paper once more and came up with a much simpler dashboard that provides an overview of the European Potato Industry in 2014…


  • having gone through the data for my first version certainly helped clarify what I wanted to show in my final dashboard so this paper version took about 5 minutes to create. After that I took a break to do some real life stuff in the outside world with other humans, it’s the weekend after all.
  • returning to my desk a couple of hours later I managed to create my final viz in about 50 min, formatting and all. Very happy with that and it confirms once more that a good draft gets you half-way there. At least!
  • So without further ado, here is my final viz… (click for the interactive version)



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