2023 retrospective

Francis Gagnon
December 31, 2023

Every year, I write this retrospective for the future: I like to reread them a few years later to see how far we’ve come and to recall some memorable moments. I share it with you and salute the Francis of the future at the same time.

Human resources

The team remained stable at nine members, but we did recruit two people to compensate for two departures. 

Mathieu Grégoire joined us as project and client manager in April, and Jessie Cabot became our project coordinator in June.

In terms of collaborations, we were fortunate to work once again with two experienced people, Joey Cherdarchuk and Christophe Viau.

New space

The biggest change, and undoubtedly the most visible, is that Voilà: has materialized in space by occupying its first premises, with all the physical and social arrangements that this represents. The effort has been worthwhile, and today we come three days a week to work together in an office to our liking. The centerpiece is undoubtedly our mural in the resting area.

A view of the mural painted on the walls in our office. It's composed of abstract shapes in a variety of colors.

Thanks to this new space, we can now welcome guests. We’ve welcomed Gurman Bhatia, Clara Dealberto and Jules Grandin, and even our first client: Kim Marois, from Fillactive. What great energy, these in-person meetings.

Celebrating 10 years

On October 1, Voilà: officially turned 10.  I never doubted the company’s viability, but I didn’t dare dream that 10 years later it would be exactly as I’d hoped, with a fantastic team, major projects and beautiful premises. Thank you all!

Information is Beautiful Awards

For the second year running, the Information is Beautiful awards made their mark. We presented three projects, all of which were selected, including two that became finalists. At the ceremony, I also presented the awards in the Business Intelligence category, in which we won gold last year.

Photo of the room where the awards ceremony took place. Several tables are set up facing the stage, where a podium and a giant screen are located. All participants are looking at the screen, which shows one of the finalist projects.
Photo: Data Visualization Society

Projects and clients

It was, as can be said every year, our biggest year in terms of projects. Here are a few highlights.

Economic dynamism by US states
A combination of scrollytelling and a dashboard.

Carbon neutrality CPP Investments
A rather qualitative explanation of a complex approach to carbon neutrality. 

Heat pump calculator
One of our most entertaining and informative interactive tools, including an amusing illustration inspired by La Linea.

Groundwater
A flagship World Bank report presented at the first UN  conference on water in decades.

Fillactive, ça marche!
A Quebec organization that reported on the results of a study on its impact. (in French)

CRE-Montréal
Clear messages on the need for parking reform in Montreal.

Scientific American
A long-held dream: to publish graphics in this prestigious journal.

On the training front, a first: three trainers responded to the demand: Timour, Guillaume Lavoie and myself.

And speaking of records: we’ve just completed a project that’s been running for two and a half years! It’s not so much the workload as the customer’s delays that explain this length of time.

We also had our first project with a United Nations agency, an organization we hope to develop to the same level as our collaboration with the World Bank Group. Contact us if you are one of them!

Internal projects

Only one client-free visualization project this year: the 2022 review. This is a new annual tradition for us, allowing us to communicate with our network about our priorities and projects.

Image showing a poster of the Voilà: 2022 Annual Review.

Communications and social media

The end of the year was all about catching up on communications, as we added the bulk of 7 projects to the portfolio. In fact, five of them concern projects from 2022 that we hadn’t yet had time to put online, but which we’re proud of.

Big Switch
In an electric future, Canada will have to produce a lot of electricity, and this report offers some ideas for solutions.

CHSLD performance
The CSBE measured the performance of public residences for the elderly and found troubling disparities.

Freedom Denied
A study by the University of Chicago on the culture of detention and immediate ways to remedy it.

Damage control
How much will climate change cost Canada? A lot, but less if we’re prepared.

The star of our work 2021
This project, which we talk about so often and which has caused such a buzz, was nowhere to be seen on our site!

And two projects from 2023 that we put online in record time!

Heat pump calculator
A calculator of heat pump operating costs (and savings).

CPP Net zero
A qualitative explanation of a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality. 

By the way, we’re putting even more projects on Behance, as all our portfolio projects are there and more.

We also published four newsletters, which is less than the eight we had planned, but it seems normal to me not to be able to treat this objective as a priority. Nevertheless, the high level of commitment from our subscribers encourages us to continue. We’ve also cleaned up our newsletter mailing list, removing addresses that hadn’t been active for some time. Take their spot now!

Speaking of catching up, four of our seven blog posts, including this one, were published in the last two months of the year.

On social media, we invested more than before in Instagram this year, with more stories and our first videos. We also more or less abandoned Twitter, which had become toxic, in favor of Bluesky. Our experience on Mastodon is still inconclusive, so we’ve slowed down our activity there. This scattering of the community is sad and, I hope, temporary.

Representation

Information design education is one of our mandates, so it’s always a pleasure to represent Voilà: and the field in general. 

In May, I flew to Washington to speak about information design to a World Bank team from South Asia, which gave me great pleasure, because I like to see people with important ideas interested in how to communicate them clearly.

Francis Gagnon speaking in front of people sitting at tables in a meeting room.

I also gave the visualization community a behind-the-scenes look at our project with EIG at the Information is Beautiful Awards Day of Inspiration Day.

In Montreal, I presented Voilà: twice to the visualization students at Polytechnique, a tradition for several years now.

I also commented on the final projects of the visualization course at the École de design of Université de Montréal.

We’ve finally been added to the City of Montreal’s Design Montréal directory, which is no mean feat considering that information design is still relatively unknown. I think we’re the only ones there in our field.

To reach out to our potential customers, I decided to get more involved in Quebec’s sustainable development network this year. I attended the Sommet Climat Montréal in May and the International Eco-citizenship Summit in June. I’ll be on the lookout for such events again in 2024.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to talk about data visualization, information design and sustainable development.

Management

Confession: our 2023 strategic plan was only completed in November… We had organized an internal consultation in January, but the workload for the move didn’t leave me time to do the necessary synthesis. I regret this and fully intend to remedy the situation in 2024.  Our consultation should also be in January.

Support from PME MTL and the Réseau Mentorat continues and remains as helpful as ever on the entrepreneurial side.

I had my first experience as a mentor, through the Data Visualization Society, for Duncan Geere, founder of Loud Numbers and Elevate. I created time I didn’t have for this task, and I don’t regret it: Duncan Geere won the Information is Beautiful impactful Community Leader Award. Very, very well deserved.

Conclusion

Another big year, with a record number of projects, new premises and recruitment (not to mention everything else that happens in our lives). It’s kept me very busy, and the company has suffered from my absence, both the team and the customers.

So I’m looking forward to 2024 with a hope of stability that will enable us to consolidate our gains and have a slightly more normal year. Famous last words!

On the project front, January and even February are already busy, but it’s still impossible to project further into the future. One thing’s for sure: on the communications front, you should be hearing a lot about our 10th anniversary, a theme around which we intend to share our expertise.

Happy New Year 2024!

Francis Gagnon

Francis Gagnon

Francis Gagnon is the founder of Voilà: (2013), an information design company specializing in sustainable development.
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