Data Visualisation

Contemporary Design Issues [ Assessment 2 : Activity 1 ]

Data visualisation is a phenomenon that has exploded in popularity over the last decade. Though it’s not surprising considering that we are living in the age of information. People are more informed – or overwhelmed, than they have ever been. Most of us are feeling the fatigue of information overload.  Data visualisation helps to cut through complicated data sets, to create something simple, direct and engaging.

The various techniques of data visualisation are outlined well in Form + code in design, art and architecture (Reas & McWilliams, 2010).  Reading through this publication you start to realise that there are endless opportunities to uncover something unique or unknown. You just need a reliable source of data, access to technology, the ability to code software – and you’ll be well and truly on your way.

One of the oldest visualisation techniques is actually cartography.  Maps, and all the wonderful geographical data that they contain, has always fascinated me. Working in the tourism industry, maps are such an important tool between the tourist and the destination. We’ve come across a variety of challenges in how to best integrate all the geo data, plus the challenge of representing a whole city in just a collection of symbols, colours and type.

Another impressive technique which I was less familiar with was time-series visualisation.  It involves complex time dependent data being compressed into one single frame.  The example given by Reas & McWilliams was the English alphabet with each letter given a ‘visual quality of a consonant or vowel sound’ (2010, p.135).  Below is an image of this novel project:

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 12.08.32 AM.png

One further example of effective data visualisation is the Zero Noon digital clock. This device displays various statistical data from different sources. The clock is actually always set at zero at noon each day, and then each figure increases as time ticks over. By making it appear like its displaying real-time data (rather than averages of real data) it adds a level of urgency that may motivate people to advocate for change.




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