New ways to visualise time

[Updated for Tableau Conference 2016]

You can watch the recording of this session from TC16 here.

The trend line is amazing. It shows peaks and troughs and trends. But if you only ever use trendlines to show time, you are missing insights in your data. What’s the best way to show time in visualisation? I cannot answer that: it depends on your data, the story you want to tell, your audience, and many other things.

One of my conference presentations is about visualizing time. This post contains links and resources from the session.

CollageWhich way is time?

Time can go up and down as well as left and right. Check out these:

  1. The Nasdaq viewer
  2. Information is Beautiful data breaches
  3. XKCD Global Temperature



Jacques Barbeu Dubourg's Chronographie from 1753
Jacques Barbeu Dubourg’s Chronographie from 1753

A history of the trend line

Someone invented the trend line. We forget that even the most common chart types were still ideas waiting to be thought of at some stage in the past. Here are the milestones I highlight in my talk

For more reading, I wholly recommend Cartographies of Time, an amazing book about the history of the timeline.

I also love this fascinating article about time as a dimension in which we find the quote “the mapping of time has made only modest intellectual progress since it was invented 250 years ago.”

6 new ways to visualize time

Cycle plots

A cycle plot (or is Batman?)
A cycle plot (is Batman hiding in the middle?)

Slope chart

Highlight tables and small multiples

Bump Chart

A bump chartA bump chart

Index chart

Other resources

  • The dashboard of my own which I featured, based on US Road Fatalities, was comeprehensively described and deconstructed in my “Design Month” series of posts in 2014.
  • I wrote about a similar topic for the Huffington Post, “New ways to see time.” It has some other examples.



5 Replies to “New ways to visualise time”

  1. Hi Andy

    This was one of my favourite sessions of the whole conference. It gave me a ton of ideas to take back to my user community. I’ve socialised this post internally.

    Thanks again,

  2. Hi Andy,

    Attended your session on this topic during Tableau Conference & absolutely loved it! At one point you discussed “hockey-stick” graphs – I am trying to find documentation on creating them but have had no luck 🙁 Any tips on this?

    In gratitude,

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