Makeover Monday week 7, 2018: The Winter Olympics

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I have to start this blog with an admission: I hadn’t even realised that the Olympics kicked off a few days ago, because my TV-free environment has made me completely forget about it and without ads to remind me of live coverage it fell off my radar.

When I was in high school, I loved watching ski jumping, figure skating and downhill skiing and even knew some of the athletes’ names. Now I’m completely out of the loop when it comes to winter sports so this week’s Makeover Monday topic is a good way to get myself ready for any upcoming trivia questions.

The original visualization is a stunning dashboard by Rody Zakovich:

The Winter Olympics.png

What works well:

  • Great visual display of the medal achievements by all the countries who ever won a medal in the winter Olympics
  • Great use of color that makes it easy to recognize gold versus silver versus bronze medals
  • Nice use of small multiples which makes it easy to compare between countries
  • Crisp, clean and uncluttered design
  • Great placement of country labels including the overall tally and breakdown by individual medals
  • The descriptions and notes are very helpful for understanding the data presented and how to read it


What could be improved:

  • I wouldn’t change a whole lot here, it’s a great visualization
  • One thing that can be challenging is the long-form layout which makes it difficult to compare the countries from the top row with those from the last row as they don’t all fit on a single screen. Then again, the countries that appear on the first screen without scrolling are really the only ones that come close to each other with regard to medal tallies
  • The x-axis is a bit too minimalist for my liking as I don’t find it intuitive to think in Olympic years, especially as they happen every four years. I would prefer the calendar year being used which gives me a better context for the low medal counts of earlier years and the gap for the war periods.


What I did:

I never realised that Germany has won the most medals overall in the Winter Olympics. I found that quite surprising to be honest as I was sure Russia, the US and Austria would be far ahead, especially given our less than stellar performances over the past few years in winter sports.

So I decided to find a story about Germany in the data and what I was able to find was more of a history lesson about our country, the wars it went through and the division into West and East that is still felt, 28 years after the Wall came down.

This is the first time in a while that I have become so absorbed in a Makeover Monday dataset, sacrificing my house cleaning chores and travel prep in favour of more hours in front of my screen, digging, thinking and formatting until everything was just right.

I was inspired by the story flow of Ivan Seow’s Yellowfin dashboard last week and also took inspiration from Natasha’s card layout in recent submissions.

Andy helped me with some clever calculations for the waffle charts so I will share the ‘how-to’ in a blog post soon.


Winter Olympics.png

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