#MakeoverMonday Week 15 (Arctic Sea Ice Extent)

DuringĀ #MakeoverMonday Week 15, I learned a lesson I’d like to share. First off, I felt the original viz did a good job of telling the story that in the Arctic, the area of ocean with at least 15% sea ice (known as the Arctic Sea Ice Extent) has been declining and that in recent decades that decline has become more rapid. So, with the original viz being an effective one in my opinion, I decided to go for what I believed to be a first in my short #MakeoverMonday tenure…stick with the original viz and simply create a variation of it.

With a plan in place, I set out…the line graph itself took virtually no time to make. I created a dimension called ‘week,’ threw it on the columns shelf, put AVG(Extent (million sq km) on rows and I had a line. Then, I needed to separate out the years, so I added YEAR(Date) to detail and got many little lines that looked something like ‘First pass,’ below. This was a good start, but I wanted to be able to clearly tell which years where most recent, so I added ‘Date years’ to color and arrived at ‘Adding color,’ below.

First pass
Adding color

So, now it looked like we were getting somewhere, as recent years were now displayed in orange. However, as opposed to seeing all the lines for each year, I wanted to sort of blend the years together, so I cranked up the line size and boy did I like what I saw…

Thickest lines possible

At this point, I was thinking, yeah this makes sense. Blue represents cold and the orange color represents the warming, which is in turn causing the Arctic Sea Ice Extent to decrease. Perfect, we’re good to go. So, I published my viz and shared it on Twitter, getting some positive feedback along the way. Then, the highly anticipated #MakeoverMonday blog post came out, where Andy covered a couple lessons. His lesson on color hit me right away…


I realized that with the use of blue/orange, I had done exactly what Andy mentioned, which was use color to convey temperature. However, the data was about more ice or less ice as opposed to hotter or cooler temperatures. So, I made the mental note and as soon as I had a chance to make the change, later that morning, I swapped out the blue/orange for blue/white, resulting in the below. A much more impactful final product, thanks to a great lesson from Andy, one that has taught me to be more mindful of what the data is about before jumping into design and color choices.

Final result