The Visual and The Complex

new year, new role….strategic planning

Posted in strategy by Brittany Dow on February 25, 2015

strategy, strategic planning

I’ve spent the last 6 years of my career analyzing data. I didn’t go to school for this and I didn’t foresee this path when I was studying art history. It’s an experience I recommend to anyone looking to get into strategy.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot. I now have a solid foundation in consumer insights, trend spotting, and the ability to always be looking ahead. Not to mention my Excel skills are on point. It’s also a path that has led to an amazing teaching gig at George Brown.

I’m grateful for the opportunities this role has presented.

However, I hit a road block in my career. As much as I’ve enjoyed sifting through endless amounts of information to uncover insights, measure success, or identify opportunities for clients, I wasn’t satisfied. I’m a creative person who thrives on ideas and solving problems. This was only 10% of my last role and I wanted it to be 100% (or pretty darn close).

This brings me to my new role as a strategic planner.

Last summer, a past colleague and mentor took me for lunch and point blank said, “You’re a planner”. A close colleague and friend was walking home with me a few days later and she too said, “You’re a planner”.  I didn’t know what this was. So the first thing I did was rush out and buy John Steel’s ‘Truth, Lies, and Advertising‘ (as recommended by said friend’s brother). Within the first few pages I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what I needed to do. So I emailed my boss and said I was pursuing a career in planning.

The company I work for and the senior team has been nothing short of amazing. They welcomed my decision with open arms.  And so began the transition. I now sit with an incredible team who inspire me every day.

As my Dad always says, “It never hurts to ask”.

Now when I head to work I have a slight skip in my step and the sun seems to shine a little bit brighter (despite these unbearable temperatures).

why visualization…lecture by isabel meirelles

Posted in <3 Data by Brittany Dow on March 9, 2014

A few weeks ago I hopped on the Go Train and headed to Sheridan College to attend a lecture by Isabel Meirelles. The title and focus of the lecture was on why we need visualizations, a subject I regularly touch on in my workshops.


The lecture was packed with at least 100 students and faculty who came from a variety of backgrounds (design, technology, business). This underlines that information visualization touches a variety of fields and that’s really exciting.

I recently picked up Isabel’s recent (amazing) book which she touched on throughout the lecture. My two favorite infoviz books are now Alberto Cairo’s ‘The Functional Art’ and this one. I’m going to be using both as my guide for my upcoming course at George Brown (more details to come).

The So What?

Isabel showed a few visualizations that were stunning but didn’t really have an insight or didn’t answer the ‘So What’ question. As an analyst this very question is what drives my work and when I consult on visualization projects the same applies. Yet projects continue to be developed that yield little insight but look amazing or are technically very complex. I have an art background and everything I studied and researched had a purpose and insight. Even the Minimalists with their blank canvases and plastic cubes had a purpose in mind even if you had to read through several essays to understand said purpose. A series of metal boxes may leave you wondering but with a bit of research it’s clear what Donald Judd was after.

I’m not sure these modern data visualization artists can say the same. There’s a sea of data at our finger tips but without a clear objective it becomes visual clutter. The signal to noise ratio is slightly off-balance and hopefully will even out. One can hope.

As Mr. Cairo says, visualization is a tool and I will stand by that until the cows come home.

i like to blog and stuff…

Posted in <3 Data by Brittany Dow on January 22, 2014

So I realized that I don’t really post a lot here but I do in fact blog regularly. I typically blog for the company I work for on their owned properties and always intend to post some follow up content here but never get around it.

So below is my round up of posts I’ve written in the past year or two. Happy reading.

Show Me the Data…Differently!

The Science Behind Visual Storytelling

Health Data: An Untapped Resource

Storytelling with Data, Five Considerations

Functional Art for PR: An Interview with Alberto Cairo

It’s Time to Embrace Open Data

Considerations for Visual Storytelling

Eyeo Festival | A Lesson in Visual Storytelling


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