The data visualization mistake you might not even know you’re making: One tip you can take straight from Picasso

Jonni Walker
em February 4, 2019

Part of the magic of Tableau Public is that it gives anyone the opportunity to leverage and build upon each others’ work. Given this unique collaborative environment, it’s more important than ever to remember that visualizing data means you are not just an analyst or a storyteller… You are an artist!

Don’t believe it? Think about all the design choices you make when vizzing: selecting colors, balancing layouts, turning complexity into simplicity. Your visualizations are works of art!

This is why it’s critical to recognize that your masterpiece could be missing one important feature: a signature! Artists throughout history and across different mediums sign their work. Painters, sculptors, and even today’s graphic designers add them— why not you?

Why add a signature? We can’t always count on others citing our work.

You may ask, “Why do I need to include a signature when Tableau Public already includes a byline?” But think about all the ways we share our vizzes. We download images of our vizzes and share them on social media. We embed our vizzes all over the web. And even when we keep our work on Tableau Public, others might be inspired by your work. They may want to share it with others by embedding your viz onto their blog or website. Or they may want to keep your viz for future reference and, unaware of the ability to “favorite” vizzes, re-upload your viz to their profile.

As recent headlines attest, artists who publish their work to the web might find their work lifted or re-posted. By creating with digital mediums, artists have trouble navigating the blurred line between inspiration and plagiarism. And to further blur that line, cultures around the world have different etiquette surrounding citation and intellectual property.

Us data artists also have to walk the line between inspiration and plagiarism. Andy Kirk discussed this on Twitter. And while we strive for Tableau Public to be a safe space for learning and collaboration, we realize that our users also struggle to cite their inspiration.

Do you believe a workbook needs proper citation? Please reach out! Email the Tableau Public team at public@tableau.com, and we’ll discuss next steps (which can include taking down workbooks). Do note that resolving these requests is manual by nature and can take up to 14 days.

Want to learn more about our stance on sharing and collaborating in Tableau Public? Check out this blog post that discusses our Terms of Service, Data Policy, Community Code of Conduct and Public Software End User License Agreement—all in one place!

Be proactive by citing yourself!

As the lines between inspiration and plagiarism continue to blur, it’s important that you be aware of best practices. One step David McCandless, founder of Information is Beautiful, takes to fight against potential plagiarism? He says he always puts a signature on his work.

Including your signature within your viz is the most elegant and seamless best practice we suggest. Here’s a few pieces of advice:

  • Make it simple. Don’t let your signature be the most memorable part of your visualization! Sometimes all you need is your name.
  • Make it interactive. Have a Twitter or LinkedIn account? What about your own blog or a Tableau Public resume? Help your viewers find more of your work by adding a link.
  • Make it yours. Your signature is a branding opportunity! Think about what makes your visualizations unique, then choose a signature that reflects those choices.

Here’s some great examples of how to sign your vizzes from— you guessed it— members of our community!

Include your headshot. Mike Cisneros uses a photo in his signature. This approach says, “Here I am! I did this awesome visualization!” without distracting the viewer.

Click to view interactive version



Turn your signature into a branding opportunity. Eva Murray’s signature is simple and beautifully on-brand with #MakeoverMonday’s dot motif. Start following Eva’s vizzes, and you’ll notice that her signature’s center dot is color-coordinated to match each viz!

Click to view interactive version



Include a custom logo. Filippo Mastroianni uses a custom logo, included on vizzes he embeds onto www.infodata.ilsole24ore.com. His signature is also interactive; it links to his personal blog and to his Twitter account.

Click to view interactive version


If you’ve seen any standout signatures, share them with us on Twitter!

Make sure you credit the work of artists that inspire you!

In order to keep Tableau Public collaborative, we added an “Inspiration" feature that lets you link your work to the author or viz that inspired you. This link is displayed in the Inspiration Field, located under your viz for all to see (rather than within the viz itself).

To update the inspiration field:

  1. Click on any viz published to your profile.
  2. Click “Edit Details in the the top-right.
  3. Add a link to any viz or author profile on Tableau Public in the Inspiration Field.

But if you're like me, you’ve likely been inspired by amazing data visualizations created outside Tableau Public. How can you give these authors and their vizzes the credit they deserve? The best rule of thumb is to cite often and wherever you can!

For example, Nina Lindell recently recreated an infographic by Alberto Lucas López in Tableau Public. She took the following steps to ensure that he was properly credited:

  • In the viz, she cites López twice: in her signature and in the top-right corner.
  • In the viz description, she cites López and links to the original infographic.
  • In her social media posts, she tags López as her inspiration.

By following Nina's example, we can help give others the credit they deserve— even when they are not creating and sharing their work on Tableau Public! Similarly, adding signatures to our vizzes can be a small but powerful step towards keeping collaboration and learning at the center of our community. Why not give it a try?

Ready to add a signature or to cite your inspiration?

Edit your existing Tableau Public vizzes in order to give yourself and others credit!