Visualizing Personality part 2

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Head over to Visualizing Personality part 1 to get an idea what this post is about.

16personalities uses human cartoonesque figures to visually explain human or psychological traits. I find those figures pleasing to the eye and sympathetic too. One HUGE problem I see in this day and age of political correctness and cultural marxism. These human shaped figures are all white it seems.


I might write a whole post about the modern phenomena, in the PC-incorrect way then as I score low on politeness anyway so that makes me a victim which gives me all the arguments to do whatever I want. This according the cultural marxist thinking that is.

This pseudo anthropomorphic approach of assigning human traits to data about human traits is tempting. The last amoeba shaped graph was a step into that direction albeit a not very flattering human shape.

Not flattering to my taste

And here is something that I teach my students and that I learned from a Dutch painter who in turn was my teacher:

take special note of “mistakes” as you might find a little gem(stone) hidden in the mistake

Outstretched hand symbolizes reaching out, high on compassion

Not one symbol will suffice nor be clear to everybody in the same way. The stretched out arm could as well suggest pity or a repressive gesture. You simply do not know the cultural background or mental state of your audience. Hence, assuming is what we have to do. To turn the graph into a human shaped figure shall be hilarious at times but it won’t add much to the clarity.

I need to make an extra remark on this aspect. I see this all around me among data people. There is this anal focus on the engineering side, to get it right. But when you talk to normal people (am still scoring low on politeness) you shall realize they do not want to look at graphs in the first place. Regardless how “right” they are, people do find them boring. This adds a point to attractive graphs, funny graphs or outright “in the face” graphs.

A friend of mine always says

A camel is a horse designed by a commission

He has a point here. Trying to mix the engineering with the funny approach might very well result in something very undesired. Still, I keep me eyes open for little mistakes and experiment with them when I feel like it.

What is common with data visualization is that there is no 1 right solution and any new method will take time to be understood. I have a hard head in accepting complex graphs. With complex I mean it takes too much investigation to figure out what is going on. I tell ask my students or customers always:

what is the story you want to tell?

Story? But I deal with facts. Get real please, we deal with stories based on hopefully measured data and interpreted by people or algorithms written by people. This I keep in mind myself the whole time, what story do I want to tell. With this little project I want to tell you, my audience, who I am through the lens of the Big Five assessment. In addition I want a customer, employee or secret lover (am sinking on the politeness scale I notice) to smack her or his personality-gram on top and see where we match, have a conflict or make each other stronger. This requires additional computation and is not a matter of 2 static images on top of one another.

I can simulate it though and inspire others to build this. It can easily become an online service, yippee! But first a blending test done in and as you can see I went back to the edgy version of the graph.

What immediately jumps at me is the “Difference” blending. “Color Dodge” would be a good 2nd when the background is black or the light parts of the graph jump out in another way. Because what we want to see is where our differences are and where are similarities are. From this we can deduce something like possible conflicts or additional benefits.

I need to rebuild the graph and eyeballed the percentages. The following graph should communicate where I score higher and where the other scores higher.

        With the legend and labels

With the labels and legend in place. I think, despite of the colors this potentially shows quickly and accurately how me and the other differ within the Big Five comparison.

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on visualizing the Big Five personality assessment. Head over to part 3 for more.

If this interests you and you like to hire my services as a consultant, teacher or designer then contact me