Written by Jo Bell

Data is Really Quite Beautiful, part 2

This is the second instalment of my data blog since I’ve been taking custody of data here at bda (you can see the first one here). In this blog, I want to quantify why data and information has the potential of becoming an art form.

Part 2: Charts as art, information as design

We’ve been storytellers since the dawn of time, while data has shaped our lives in the past decade immensely and it’s only set to enhance it further. Data, when visualised well, can tell a great story and it can help you to understand complex ideas like you never did before. As Hans Rosling said, “Let the dataset change your mind”, and we should! We should be using data to make better decisions, to predict outcomes, to describe situations accurately instead of basing them on a hunch. We are in the information age, with cloud computing becoming more prevalent, with the internet of things changing how we perceive connectivity, monitoring and tracking, times are really changing and we all need to change with the times.

“…visualisations, infographics, data visualisations, they feel like flowers blooming […] if you look at it directly, it’s just a lot of numbers and disconnected facts. But if you start working with it and playing with it in a certain way, interesting things can appear and different patterns can be revealed.”
– David McCandless, ‘The beauty of data visualisation’

IIB Studio, headed up by the wonderful David McCandless, is seamlessly changing the way we use data – it is beautiful, it is powerful, and it is awe-inspiring. Information Is Beautiful “champions the use of data visualisation and information design to explore new directions in storytelling with data”.

Data visualisations not to miss

  • The IIB project for the BBC, Your Life on Earth, has to be one of the most powerful uses of data viz and info design I have ever come across. Using multiple open-source datasets, you can see how the world and everything in it has changed since you were born.
  • The Internet of Things, a primer – an animated, visualised tour of why you should care about this topic and what it entails.
  • Flight Patterns – Aaron Koblin’s visual representation of planes in the skies of the USA; 140,000 planes being monitored at any one time…
  • Emoji Tracker – physically see how many times an emoji is used on Twitter, real-time.
  • A day in the life of New York taxis – See the journeys NYC taxis take in a day.
  • Where does my money go? – See how the money you pay in tax is being spent by the government.