Thoughts On: Valentine’s Day

I’m going to start this by agreeing with a sympathy that I think most men hold: Valentine’s day is a bit of a silly holiday that is a big deal mostly because of backing from card & flower companies.

That said, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to change it, so here is how I think about it.


Valentine’s day is a sport. Like all sports the rules are basically arbitrary. They were decided before you started playing the game. In a way, you are confined by them, but that is part of what makes it fun. Within the confines of the rules of the game, you get to use your creativity, skill and dedication to help you achieve optimal results. Winning!

Valentines Day is a sport. It is a sport that all men in relationships are automatically signed up to play on one night of every year. Its a bit like middle school gym class – you didn’t get to decide that you wanted to play, you didn’t get to decide the rules, but now that you are playing, you have a decision to make. You can either play half-heartedly and go home regretting it. Or you can play your best, make big plays and hope for the win.

Like all sports you get points for certain things. There isn’t an official Valentine’s day score card, it is probably different for everyone depending on what your significant other likes. Generally things like flowers, chocolates, candles and the like get you points. Why do roses get more points than other flower on Valentine’s day? I don’t know, why do you get six points for a touchdown instead of 4 or 15? This was all decided long before any of us started playing.

Like in football, you have to call a play. An expensive dinner is a classic option, like a forward pass, but not the only one. The tried and true home cooked dinner is like running the ball on 1st and 10. If you’ve got time on the clock, go for it.

Like all sports there is competition. You are basically competing with 2 things; your significant other’s expectations and her friend’s boyfriends/husbands.

Her Expectations

You might be lucky enough to be in a relationship with a girl that doesn’t care much for Valentine’s day. This makes the first part of your competition easy. You don’t have much to compete with when it comes to expectations. A quiet night with a nice card might earn you the W.

On the other hand, you might be dating someone with a wild imagination, a reality TV habit and a weak understanding of finances. Sorry, bro. You’ve got a lot to go up against. Remember, though, expensive dinners are one play option, but you can always attempt a trick play and go for a walk on the beach.

The Significant Others of Her Friends

Next up you have indirect competition with the significant others of her friends. On February 15th, your girlfriend is going to talk to her friends and they will discuss Valentine’s day. You might have thought you did a great job because your sweetheart has low V-day expectations, but when your girlfriend hears about the nice dinner her friend went to or the chocolates her other friend got, things might change. Many a time, a guy has thought he did a decent job, only to find out a few days later he dropped the ball. And he can’t make up for it the next year.

Know what league you are playing in. Unfortunately some things that work in NCAA don’t work in the NFL. Just ask Tim Tebow.


In conclusion, you were signed up for a sport that you only have a basic understanding of. The scoring rules don’t make much sense and your competition is a bit of a mystery. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it though, you’re a winner, you play to win. So next year, go buy some flowers, make some dinner plans and write down a few heartfelt thoughts on a card you got at the corner store. Feel free to keep track of the imaginary score in your head, but keep in mind your traditional touchdown celebration dance might not be appropriate. Eh, who cares, if you want to do the dirty bird in the middle of a Michelin Star rated restaurant, go for it!

Innovation Session: Tony Gonzalez Infographic Part 5

Night 5 of the Tony Gonzalez infographic. Tonight I mainly spent time making  tweaks to sections of the image I had already worked on. Some of it was nitpicking pixels, but a good bit was adding new information to charts that I already thought were packed. I’m really happy with the additional information I was able to get into a few of them tonight.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about my thoughts on design iteration.

As I design a data visualization I constantly ask myself five questions:

  1. What story am I trying to tell right here?
  2. Can I add any additional insight?
  3. What can I remove without sacrificing the story?
  4. Is the image easy to understand on its own?
  5. How can I make this awesome?

Repeating this process tends to refine the image with each iteration. As elements are added the visualization becomes easier to understand but a bit hectic. I then try to simplify – remove elements where possible and soften those that are non-critical but also non-removable. As items are added and removed the better ideas tend to rise to the top.

Process wise, I will frequently make a copy of a saved file I like so I can play with it to test out a crazy idea. That gives me a safety net. if the wild idea doesn’t pan I can delete it and go back to the former file. It is freedom to explore where time and energy are the only consequence. Version controlled visualization creation.

Throughout the design process I try to make the story awesome. Adding work that helps the story stick. Tables show a lot of data but don’t really make much pop. So we graph the data and give it visual perspective – but bar graphs are forgettable.  Can I add any artistic elements to the graph to make it stick? Can I use different color schemes that fit a particular part of the story? Can I make this chart different than the ones around it so they don’t all blend into each other? Great stories stand on their own – but awesomeness shouldn’t be underrated. There is a reason some of the most loved films combined strong stories with effects that pushed boundaries.


I set up a Google alert for ‘Tony Gonzalez Retire’ (I’m totally going to see this post in it tomorrow) – so I can make sure I properly time the release of the infographic. Based on this article it seems like the popular prediction is shifting a bit towards Tony staying for another year. It looks like the decision will come down to the wire, so I think my final will be spent creating A/B versions – one for if he retires, one for if he stays.

I don’t have anything additional to show tonight, but I feel bad making a post without an image – so here is drawing of a Falcons jersey I made. Rise up!88-Falcons-Jersey