Dice Portraits of the Tableau Management

Mosaic Dice Portraits of Tableau Software’s Leadership Team

Dice Portrait of Christian ChabotFirst things first: this is a fun post. Don’t expect to learn much from today’s article, neither about Data Visualization in general nor about special tips and tricks in Tableau.Today’s post is in line with 2 fun articles about (re-)creating art with Tableau Software:

Tableau Replica of Curtis Steiner’s 1,000 Blocks


6 Famous Paintings in Tableau

The article is adopting an idea of creating images using different faces of a dice: mosaic dice pictures or portraits. The post includes the beautiful article and video I stole this idea from and my Tableau workbook showing the portraits of the members of the Tableau Management Team using dice face custom shapes.

The Source of Inspiration

In tribute to the Canadian artist Tobias Wong who passed by 2010 at the age of 35 (13,138 days), his friend Frederick McSwain created a mosaic dice portrait of him, using 13,138 dices:

Frederick McSwain explains his work (via core77) as follows:

“The idea of a die itself was appropriate – the randomness of life. It felt like [a medium] he would use. Because [Tobias] was a very street-level force, I thought it was appropriate [to install] the portrait on the floor. It’s not something I wanted to suspend on the wall; I wanted it to be right there on the floor where you almost interact with it.

The idea of every decision you make and everything you’ve done in your life, defines who you are. All of those days symbolically make up the image of Tobi.”

This is an awesome piece of art and a fantastic tribute to a friend.

The Idea

I really like those mosaic dice art pictures. However, I have neither enough dices nor the patience or the time to create such an amazing piece of art. However, I do have Tableau available and I already posted a comparable example: the Tableau implementation of Curtis Steiner’s 1,000 Blocks. The technique is exactly the same. All you have to do is to replace the wooden blocks by regular dices.

During the Tableau European Customer Conference in Barcelona last week there was one statement I heard from several Tableau folks on different occasions:

“We are eating our own dog food.”

So what would have been more obvious than creating mosaic dice art portraits of all members of Tableau Software’s Management team using – you guessed it – Tableau Software? And yes, I included all 9 members of the leadership team, not only the three co-founders.

The Tableau Workbook

Two small usage hints:

  • Each portrait consists of 3,053 data points, that’s why Tableau needs a few seconds to render the visualization (the ongoing rendering process is indicated by an hour glass at the top right). Please have a little patience after using the filter drop down.
  • The visualizations look best if you keep a little distance from your screen. Just follow the three foot rule.Well, to be honest, it is more a nine foot rule in this case.


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The Implementation

My software development skills as well as my knowledge about working with digital images are near to nothing. So I am absolutely sure there is a much better and more efficient way of doing this.

However, if you are interested in my primitive approach, here is a step by step of what I have done:

  • I took the images of the Tableau Management Team from the Tableau website (I hope this was no copyright violation already).
  • A simple image editing program (SnagIt in my case) helped me decrease the resolution and to convert them into gray scale version.
  • With Ivan Moala’s great ImageToXcel,I was able to import the images into a cell grid of an Excel spreadsheet. Many thanks, Ivan!
  • My own little VBA routine then read the fill colors of each pixel and converted them into a table with the position of each pixel in the image (X and Y) and the value in a scale of 1 (light gray) to 6 (dark grey) depending on the fill color.

That’s it. I had my data. The name and the position of the team member (depending on the processed image), the location in X and Y and the value, i.e. the face of the dice.

  • Next step of preparing the workbook is getting some nice pictures of the six faces of a dice in order to use them as Custom Shapes in Tableau. A couple of minutes and Google provided me with the download link to a royalty-free version of 6 nice PNG files.

If you are already familiar with Tableau, you know that getting your data ready is always the hardest part of a project.

Creating the visualization in Tableau is a piece of cake:

  • Drag X as a dimension to the Columns Shelf and Y as a dimension to the Rows Shelf
  • Drag Name (team member) to the Filter Shelf
  • Use Shapes as the Marks
  • Drag the Dice Value measure to the Shape Shelf
  • Assign the Custom Shapes (the images of the dice faces, see above)
  • Fix the axes scales
  • And finally do some formatting like adjusting the size of the view and the size of the shapes using the Size Slider, hiding the axes headers, etc.

That’s it. I agree, it is a totally useless visualization, but I had a lot of fun working on it and I thought sharing it with you would do no harm.

Stay tuned. More serious articles on Tableau, Excel and Data Visualization will come soon.

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