Data – its future isn’t in volume, infallibility and predictive. The next wave of data intelligence, according to information designer Giorgia Lupi, will be smaller, imperfect and serendipitous. And it will be humanized for our understanding through visual design.
Big Data, as Lupi writes in “Data Humanism: The Revolution Will Be Visualized” from Print Magazine, is recognized as a critical part of today’s economy.
“The ways we relate to data are evolving more rapidly than we realize, and our minds and bodies are naturally adapting to this new hybrid reality built of both physical and informational structures,” he writes.
Lupi believes that part of the adaptation and evolution will be an increasingly visual representation of data.
“We are ready to question the impersonality of a merely technical approach to data, and to begin designing ways to connect numbers to what they really stand for: knowledge, behaviors, people,” Lupi asserts.
This goes way beyond the incredibly popular infographic, the marketer’s visual shorthand to make data “simple” or accessible. In fact, Lupi stresses that simple just doesn’t cut if for the kind of data that is influencing every aspect of life now.
“Whenever the main purpose of data visualization is to open people’s eyes to fresh knowledge, it is impractical to avoid a certain level of visual complexity.”
Lupi gives a fascinating look at how visual designers are now able to tell incredibly complex stories with data, helping to teach us how to learn this visual language to “convey the true depth of complex stories.”
The article offers a fascinating look at some of these visualizations along with a clear description of how the human mind is beginning to “see” data in new ways. He uses personal examples – keeping a diary of every time he complained, or making notes of every time he checked the time – to create a true understanding of why these things are happening. And knowing why means being able to change them if we wish.
Surprisingly, an underlying assumption in all of this is that data isn’t perfect. And indeed, it is the small flaws and imperfections that have a big impact on the understanding we glean from it.
“Data visualization should embrace imperfection and approximation, allowing us to envision ways to use data to feel more empathic, to connect with ourselves and others at a deeper level,” Lupi explains. The more effort we put into researching and translating, the easier the reader will understand and relate to the stories we tell.”
For data visualization designers like Lupi, this is a fascinating time.
“We should learn how to include and render the more qualitative and nuanced aspects of data. We should experiment with how to visualize uncertainty, possible errors and imperfections in our data. And most importantly, we should keep in mind how data can be a powerful tool for all designers, bringing stories to life in a visual way and adding structural meaning to our projects.”