Why I'm Learning to Draw

I'm taking on a new challenge this year and to further hone my craft.

For a long time, I struggled to call myself a designer. I never saw myself as a ‘proper’ one. I had a hard time convincing myself and I needed to had lots of pep talks on this topic. I decided to tackle this problem head-on and really try to do something tangible about it. I’ve reflected on this topic in my new blog post. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

When I take an honest look at my recent work, it looks very logical. It is made up of simple shapes that work together to communicate information. I’ve always felt that something was missing in my work. I was hitting a wall and I just couldn’t figure out what it was. I could never pin it down. One guess is that perhaps it lacked beauty. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, but I still think that most people can agree on something looking beautiful. I’ve never been good at making beautiful work. I struggle to put together interesting layouts and applying typography in compelling ways. It’s a shortcoming I feel severely insecure about. I always tell myself the same boring excuse: “I’ve never gone to graphic design school”, or “I’m not artistic enough”. The thing is, I know the principles of design well enough to make something that looks good, but not great. When I see beautiful work by other designers, I realize that I still have so much to learn. Despite calling myself a “designer”, I never felt like one. Recently, I’ve been pretty tired of telling myself I can’t make beautiful work just because I’m not capable enough. So, I am attempting to address this by learning how to draw.

Although I start off talking about beauty as the reason that my work was lacking, I conclude on a deeper and more personal reason. You can read it by clicking on the link below. As my subscriber, you get early access to this piece.

Read the post

What I’m working on

If you subscribe to other dataviz newsletters, chances are that you might have heard that I am working with Alli Torban, Duncan Geere, Gabrielle Mérite, and Will Chase to launch a new membership program for dataviz practitioners. It’s a work in progress that we have been developing for several months now. Duncan initially pitched this idea and I am all for it. I really love the dataviz community because everyone is very giving. I’ve done all I can to give back and written a lot about my work and process. Lately, there’s a lot competing for my time and although I would like to produce more content in this space, it’s hard to do that when there’s other paid work I need to attend to. I have a lot I want to write about but it’s not feasible for me to pump out more without degrading quality. The new blog post I just wrote took me about 10 hours to put together. It’s a crazy amount of time to do that, but that’s just how I prefer to make my content. If it means that I would have to publish less often to attain the depth I am looking for, then so be it. I think this membership might be a good way for me to share more knowledge while maintaining quality and frequency.

The membership will be a paid subscription and our goal is to help dataviz folks grow their career in this field. There’s lots of resources out there that focuses on the technical aspects of the craft, but not all the other stuff that is equally important in building a career. Topics such as contract or salary negotiation, or how to find clients, are not talked about enough. My article about how self-employed dataviz designers make their money blew up because no one has explored that topic in the depth I have. The reaction I got just shows how everyone else is looked for answers. I think there’s immense potential for this membership to be a place of growth and career fulfilment. We have a lot of ideas in store and I think we are credible enough to provide a membership like this. We have all been active in the dataviz community for many years and have given our time and resources generously so others could benefit from our experiences.

At the moment, we are looking for beta testers to sign up. We haven’t determined how much it would cost yet, but we are aiming to offer a discount if you sign up early. We want to test the membership with a small group of people before we officially launch publicly and see if it’s something people are interested in. Reply to this email if you are interested in being a beta tester. If you aren’t sure yet and are on the fence about it, I could also add you to a list so that we keep you informed of all news related to the membership in case you change your mind later.

Ask Jane

A segment where I post questions I get asked from people who are curious about my process and work.

The following question was asked by a fellow newsletter subscriber:

Why do you document and write so much about your process?

Many reasons. It’s a lot of work to write about my process, yet it’s the main thing I talk about.

  1. The question I get asked most is about my process. Process determines outcome so naturally people want to know the how. Everyone has a different process and I’ve invented many things to make the outcomes I want.

  2. It builds trust: people who see my process are more likely to trust me. They see the work I put into my creations and can better appreciate my skills. I had a recruiter who went through one of my projects and they said they could easily understand what I was trying to do. They appreciated the process more than the outcome. They could better assess my soft skills like research and problem solving when they see me talk about my process.

  3. It’s important to create content about my work so it gains awareness. I am more comfortable talking about what I’ve learned recently, than pose myself as a teacher and teach people. So naturally, talking about process makes the most sense.

  4. I write so I can articulate. I believe that if you write about your process, it is the most effective way to understand it. When you understand what you are doing and why, you develop expertise. Having your thoughts organized is extremely useful. You will be more confident when you present yourself to others and you will have a good understanding of how to improve yourself.

  5. The biggest reason I am motivated to reveal my process is so others can see how hard all of this is. I talk about my process and also my struggles. I have a lot of times when I lose faith in myself and a lot of people identify with that. They feel heard when I talk about it and they don’t feel like they are alone in pursuing design. So many designers show the final beautiful product. The end result is only 10% of the story, 90% of it is very uncomfortable because we are stretching ourselves to invent new work out of nothing.