Build a Qualitative Dashboard

Why is it that so many attempts to visualize qualitative data start by quantifying the data?

Qualitative data is special because it’s deep and rich.  There is huge value in learning lots about a little.  But when we present that data, we often remove the richness that makes qualitative data special.

Anyone who has ever dived into interview transcripts knows the problem.  Unstructured text or audio data is tough to get through.  So we, as researchers, condense it down and pull out quotes.  Presenting the findings, not the data.  Visualization follows a similar approach.

But what if we took a different approach and didn’t condense down the qualitative data?  What if we illustrated it instead?


The concept is pretty simple.  Start with the qualitative data, and instead of cutting it down, illustrate the data.

Illustrate section after section, then pull out a featured image for each.  These new images become your dashboard.

The thing I’ve discovered over the past few years is that if you take really dense material, split it into short paragraphs and then create supporting images, it becomes read-able.  Even with the most basic pictures.  This concept is based on that.

Qualitative Dashboard Concept


One easy way to create a dashboard would just be to use a wordpress portfolio theme.  Every interview becomes a page or blog post and the featured image portfolio becomes your dashboard.  You can even add tags or categories to create easy filterable views.

For this prototype I took an even simpler route.  I’ve taken all the profile cartoons from my blogging advice blog post (it’s super long if you haven’t read it) and turned them into links.  I didn’t split up anything, just created anchor links within the long post.

I asked each blogger two questions and then created two cartoons for each (one profile cartoon and one regular cartoon).  By clicking on the profile below you’ll be taken to the spot within the blog post where you can find their answers.

Seth Godin AdviceBeth Kanter AdviceHenry Jenkins AdviceRobert Kosara AdviceJessie Daniels AdviceNathan Yau AdviceLisa Wade AdviceEwen Le BorgneTom Murphy AdviceDavid Henderson AdviceJane Davidson AdviceMolly Engle AdviceJara Dean-CoffeyBonnie Koenig AdviceStephanie Evergreen AdviceKaren AndersonPablo Rodriguez-Bella AdviceChi Yan LamAnn EmerySheila Robinson AdviceJamie Clearfield AdviceMolly Hamm Advice


  1. Mary G Williams on October 4, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I absolutely love this idea. I just saved images to a couple of my Pinterest boards. I’m retired but this tempts me to take on a project just to try this out.

    • Chris Lysy on October 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

      If you do Mary, I would love to see the results 🙂