For the November to December 2020 period, the #IronQuest theme was Black and White. The challenge this month was to create a compelling visualisation using only black, white or greyscale colour schemes.

We received a total of 57 submissions for this round making it the second-most popular round in #IronQuest history! What’s more, 61% of entrants were first-time #IronQuest participants and only 43% of entrants entered the 2020 Iron Viz competition.

I was privileged to join forces with my good friend, Chantilly Jaggernauth this month! Chantilly is the Founder and CEO of Millennials and Data (#MAD). Through #MAD, Chantilly works to bridge the data literacy and analytical skills gap by training, mentoring, and preparing millennials to enter a data-driven global environment. Her goal is to build a community of millennials who have the analytical skills needed to become data-driven leaders within any industry. In her day job, Chantilly is the VP of Data Visualization and Training at Lovelytics in Arlington, VA. Chantilly is also a Tableau Zen Master and Tableau Public Ambassador.


Due to the high volume of entries this month, Chantilly and I were unable to cover all of the vizzes where feedback had been requested on our feedback call. In the essence of time, we prioritised feedback for 25 first time entrants or those who are new to Tableau.

You can listen to our feedback here:

Chantilly and I had fun recording this edition! There were a broad range of topics covered in the vizzes; some we were familiar with and others less so. Regardless, I appreciate Chantilly’s practical feedback and thoughtful advice for the participant’s who opted to cover more sensitive topics.

We reviewed the vizzes in alphabetical order (by authors first name) to make it easier to jump straight to the feedback for your viz.

In this video we cover vizzes by the following authors:

Aashique S
Ashok Bhatta
Azaz Khan
Branden Kornell
Carolyn Wimbush
Danny Bradley
Donal O’Beirne
Eve Thomas
Gianmarco Fretti
Ingrid Arreola
James Goodall
Jasmine Lim
Kris Curtis
Lisa Rapp
Mark Corbridge
Mohit Panse
Pallav Shah
Priya Padham
Priyanka Dobhal
Sedale McCall
Siddhanth Shetty
Tanveer Jeddy
Valerie Mais
Vishal V

I’m in the process of gathering written feedback to those who requested it (for vizzes we didn’t cover in the call). If you requested feedback you should have received an email from me shortly. If you do not receive feedback in the next few days and would still like your viz to be reviewed, please let me know.

Viz Highlights

I am always surprised by the variety of entries we receive for each round. Since the theme this month was design-focused rather than topic-focused, the entries covered a wide range of subject matter. Even without the power of colour at their disposal, 57 participants took on the challenge of creating a compelling and informative visualisation using simply black, white and grey.

Some people opted to use the power of contrast and composition to capture an audience’s attention and bring their data to life. Others used shading to emphasise key points and tell a compelling story. Regardless of the approach, participants were forced to adopt different techniques to create memorable, impactful visualisations.

Here are a few of my favourite entries. 

Click on the viz images to view the originals on Tableau Public.


Often we use colour as a way of focusing attention in data viz. However, a lack of colour can sometimes force us to view a picture as one complete view and in doing so, uncover patterns and trends in the data. We saw some participants take this approach with their visualisations this month.

Adam G. used this approach to go meta and visualise the colour of the backgrounds of his 100-most recent Tableau Public vizzes. Presented in a hex grid, each hexagon represents a viz and the circles within each hexagon represent the background colour of the viz in question. At a glance, we can instantly see which colours Adam favours, as well as any patterns in his colour use. The QR code is also a really nice touch!

Priyanka and Pratik collaborated to produce a viz which takes movies with the word ‘Black’ in their title and analyses the percentage of the colour black they have in their corresponding movie poster. I found the concept of this viz particularly interesting and I appreciate how they included both a rectangle to represent the black-other colour ratio composition of each poster, as well as a bar to represent foreign vs. domestic box office collections. The instant you look at this viz, movies like ‘Black Sea’ and ‘The Woman in Black’ are brought to the audiences’ attention.

Kate S. looked at her screen time over the period of a few weeks and presented it in the form of a barcode. Again, the days where her screen time was higher or lower are instantly identifiable.

Anjulika was recognised with a VOTD with this viz which looks at the gender ratio of male to female authors over the years in the New York Times bestseller list. With female authors represented in grey, this approach really emphasises how heavily male-dominated the list has been since it was first published in the 1930’s.

Rob R. is known for his composition maps but rather than his usual treemap approach, Rob used pie charts to visualise the proportion of public sector employees within each UK Parliamentary Constituency in September 2019. While some might say this is an unconventional approach, I found it really interesting to view this viz at a distance and see the trends across the different regions.

Icons, Pictures & Shapes

Some participants used the black and white theme as an opportunity to use icons, pictures and shapes to help make their visualisations more memorable and impactful.

Kimly used white circular shapes to compare the sizes of moons in our Solar System. The starkness of the white moons against the black background in this viz results in a powerful, memorable effect.

Kris used circles, shading and position to visualise Fulham FC’s journey to the Europa Cup Final. I like the way Kris not only included the match results but also the timings of goals in each match along the vertical lines, helping to give a sense of the flow and energy of each game.

Simon took the iconic Ali v Williams fight aerial photo and used it as a centrepiece in his viz which explores the history of the heavyweight boxing belts, how long champions reigned & their defences of the title. In this viz, Simon replaced the tables in the original image with bars and used circles to mimic the crowd.

In this VOTD viz, Wendy used a stacked bar chart and maps connected with curves to visualise the population of giant pandas housed in zoo’s outside of China. What makes this viz unique is the way that Wendy used shapes to visually encode gender and in doing so, turned the individual bars into bamboo stalks! I also appreciate the inclusion of the panda emojis in the title.


Shading is an effective approach to drawing attention and emphasising key points of interest in data visualisation. This approach works particularly well with contrasting colours like black and white or black and grey. We saw some fantastic examples of this approach in the submissions this month.

Mark C. used a storypoint approach to visualise the story of the Bornean Orangutan and their declining population. As a user progresses through the viz (and through time), the map of the Bornean Orangutans habitat slowly becomes more and more black until the final slide which shows the stark possibility that there may be zero Bornean Orangutans remaining in the wild by 2070.

Michelle visualised public debt in the United States, using grey to shade the Republican administration and white to visualise the Democratic administration. I like the way Michelle introduced the shading in the area chart and continued with the shading approach in the bar chart below. The contrasting colours really help to emphasise the story in the data.

Carolyn applied a similar approach in her viz which explores the spending on advertising in the United States. In this viz, Carolyn shows historic spend in a dark grey and forecasted spend in a lighter grey. I like the way she introduces this concept in the first chart and continues to apply the same approach in the smaller charts below.

All Submissions

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted entries for taking the time to create and share your work! Also, a big thank you to Chantilly for being a fantastic co-host.

All of the entries are posted below in alphabetical order by first name (note: the placement of some vizzes have been adjusted slightly for ease of viewing).

If you tweeted your viz or thought you submitted one via the Google Form but don’t see it here, let me know and I’ll work to include any additional entries ASAP.

Details of the next round of Iron Quest will be announced on 4th January! The next round has been designed around a topic that everyone will enjoy, making it the ideal viz project to kick off the new year with. Look out for the official launch blog post coming soon.

In the meantime, I would appreciate if you could help me by sharing your feedback on the Iron Quest project in 2020 and any suggestions you may have for the project in 2021. You can submit your feedback here.

To stay up to date with all things #IronQuest, follow the hashtag #IronQuest on Twitter and LinkedIn and check out the Iron Quest section on my blog for more info.

Thanks for reading.