Eyeo 2014, The shapes of my thoughts

I had the pleasure to give another talk at the last edition of Eyeo Festival  (which by the way was amazing. awesome) in Minneapolis.
I took this chance for opening and presenting a very personal topic, and take the audience on a journey into my personal obsession, drawing.
In fact, to me drawing is both a rigid ritual and a casual pastime, a design tool and a means of expression, but more than anything it is a compulsion and a liberation.
During the talk I presented my practice of drawing and its role as a design tool – to open mental spaces, recognize, name, repeat, remember, and thus understand the world I am designing for at a deeper level.
I’ve been talking about  the composition of abstract drawings with data and without data, and showcasing preparatory sketches for data-visualization, abstract process drawings, explorations of visual elements as a linguistic system for compositions, and obsessive repetitions done with no purpose at all; and dissecting what the act of drawing does to my mind and thoughts, highlighting the aesthetic choices made along the way, unpacking how this casual habit became a sort of physical extension to my mind, creating a loop that fuels my personal and professional life.

I here outline the talk’s structure, with all of the slides and videos and some notes that can drive you through exploring it.
Enjoy it, better if with papers and pencils at hand.

__________________


giorgialupi.002

 

THE SHAPES OF MY THOUGHTS.

__________________

giorgialupi.003

Hello eyeo, let me introduce you who I am and what brings me here.
I am an architect as a background, but I work as an information designer, building information and knowledge rather than houses

__________________

giorgialupi.004

I work at Accurat – an information design agency that I co-founded 3 years ago together with my partners Simone Quadri and Gabriele Rossi.
We do data analysis and data visualizations, static and interactive data visualizations, working with very different kind of clients  that vary from foundations, financial institutions, public and cultural institutions,  health, and media.

__________________

giorgialupi.005

In the company we have different backgrounds and skillsets,  we are mainly designers, but in our team we have sociologists, data analysts and developers,
and we are around 15 people right now working fulltime on our projects.

__________________

 

 

giorgialupi.006

 

We have an office in Milan and one in New York that we opened recently, (and I am one of the lucky guys in the New York office!)

__________________
giorgialupi.007

Last year at EYEO  I’ve been covering some data visualisation projects we did,  and I talked on them, focusing about the importance for designers to get visually inspired from various fields, from my point of view, thus suggesting not to look only at existent data visualizations as a source for inspiration for projects.

__________________

giorgialupi.008

but instead, to get inspired by whatever we aesthetically like.
In my case such as abstract art..
…but also the repetitive aesthetics of music notations for example,
…or the layering systems of architectural drawings,
…or even the shapes and aesthetics of objects and natural elements that we find in our daily experience and that we like.
And I suggested to start doing this to really understand and analyze what what is that we like of what we see, what are the aesthetic qualities of these pleasant images we choose.

__________________

giorgialupi.009

and I concluded on how I feel that drawing and re-drawing these images we like, definitely helps to introduce what I would call “a level of abstraction”  to CATCH, CAPTURE and make YOURS the things that you are attracted from;
and to then translate these features as core principles and guidelines in building visual compositions with data.

__________________

giorgialupi.010

And this year, I decided to start from where I finished last year,  but going really in depth on that, and dissecting the “shapes” of my thoughts.

__________________

giorgialupi.011

I decided to talk about a personal topic which is my aesthetic research for data visualization (which I take great pleasure from) and which I figured out 100% dealing with this obsession that I have for:
– daily looking at tons of images,
– abstracting what I like of them,
redrawing these feature to make them mine ,
– and replicating that sort of “digested beauty” in compositions with data,
I really understood that this is t360 degrees influencing my approach to data visualization

__________________

giorgialupi.012

and well, should I have talked about drawing and shape a power point slide-show?
(I also had a lot of fun in drawing my presentation, almost all of it, has you’ve already start seeing)

__________________

giorgialupi.013

But linking all of this to the field of data visualization:
at Accurat, when we do data visualizations, we really tend to never start from “visual standars” to visualize data, we never start by listing the possibilities that we have, or by seeing what the tools we use can create easily.
We like the idea to design very customized pieces, every time, exploring how these analytical representations can be beautiful and pleasant, of course keeping the accuracy of the data analysis intact and clear.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.014

And we do that, because we  really think that – in certain cases –  the aesthetic aspects of a data-visualization CAN be considered as important as the data itself  in helping readers get interested about a topic, and in triggering their curiosity to explore more.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.015

We also think that aesthetic features CAN definitely be considered not only as ornamental attributes within a data-driven visual story. (and also the right kind of ornament isn’t necessary a bad thing…! :-))

__________________

 

giorgialupi.016

and also, why a reader shouldn’t be able to find a data-visualization both intellectually compelling, and so rigorous data-wise, but also emotionally rich?

__________________

 

giorgialupi.017

At Accurat, I am responsible for the design direction, and I am most of the times supposed to come up with design ideas for data visualization projects, (it actually happens pretty often since we have multiple projects ongoing at a time) and I developed my own method for doing it.
Every day I spend a great amount of time looking for visual inspiration, and carefully and maniacally organizing those different kind of images I find on Pinterest (that is my tool for that).
And I love doing that!  it really gives me a compulsive pleasure!

__________________

 

giorgialupi.019

So, summing up: what I find myself doing a lot of times even when I don’t have a specific project in mind is:
– getting lost in images I like,
– tracking those images down,
– and redrawing them compulsively.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.020

And why drawing? Well, there are lots of incredibly interesting books on the act and the practice of drawing, elucidating how drawing plays an important role in the genesis of new ideas.  It has been largely described as a functional tool to get ideas, to capture those ideas, and to communicate them. And besides – the act of drawing and the very fact we choose to stop and draw is a way to focus attention, just by itself.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.021

But also, why talking about drawing;  because for me it IS a real obsession.
I just feel lost if I don’t have my pens and white paper with me: I feel that I miss a part of my possibility to understand situations.
(and people make fun of me because of that: because in every situation I would first thing pull out my pencil case and paper).
I draw during meals, during movies, during meetings. Drawing it always has been part of my day as far as I can remember. When I was a kid, I quickly realized that drawing was the only thing that I was happy doing alone, I enjoyed it a lot.

These are really just a few out of the many pictures that my boyfriend took of me during the last years in different situations. 

__________________

 

giorgialupi.022

Drawing. I don’t have any former artistic background and I’ve never taken a drawing class ever,
but the act of sketching notes, the act of tracing visual thoughts on paper for me means primarily understanding what I am thinking.
I hope that this sharing of my practice can be helpful or – at least – inspiring even for those of you that are super skeptical right now, and for those of you who thinks “I am terrible at drawing, I’ll never do that”.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.023

I’ll now start talking about some of our projects.
I’ve been always very fascinated by musical scores,
…by that elegant and minimal form of repetitiveness,
…by the symbolism of this language which is already information design if you think about it,
…this idea of a temporal score conveying all of the information about how a piece should be performed,
…it is really intriguing to me.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.024

In this data visualization that we published on the May issue of Popular Science, we analyzed and visualized the top scientific papers and their peaks of citations over years for 20 scientific disciplines. The point of the visualization was to figure out: “How long does it takes for papers to become “famous”? …to be cited more and more and thus become relevant to the scientific community of that discipline?
And, as you might see we really took inspiration from the musical score panorama as for the singular elements, but we also mixed it with this idea of trees – branches – referring to the scientific world in a way,  which is actually the topic and the very context of the data themselves.

__________________

giorgialupi.025

We built these sort of circular scores for each of the selected disciplines, with a circular timespan from 1948 to 1998, and we highlighted the top 20 papers per discipline (i.e the paper that got more quoted over time) representing them as musical notes positioned on the circle according to the year the paper was published.
And actually here drawing really served for me as my tool to combine what I was trying to get inspired from with the data we had and with the more “vague” ideas I had about the scientific panorama, as I will explain in a little bit.

__________________

giorgialupi.026

Just to give you a context about the visualization:
The length of each note, (so of each paper) represents the number of years it took that paper to reach the maximum number of citations, along another temporal dimension which is the radius.
Besides, for each paper we added extra information on :
– the total number of references / with this small colored bar at the center,
– the number of authors per each paper / (which sometimes are surprisingly really many) and that are the dots above the note),
– and the eventual recurrent authors, (the arcs that you see connecting the dots).
And we also added these colored backgrounds to represent the running average  “time to become famous”  through time for each discipline, which was done by analizing the total of the papers published and quoted within the timespan.

__________________

giorgialupi.027

It’s a quite rich narrative (also the data analysis we performed was quite complex and articulated) but you can definitely get lost in exploring those musical disciplines, I hope “beautiful musical disciplines”and noticing some patterns and interesting facts which I am not gonna bother you with today.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.028

And, it all started from this… from this is very ugly and empty sketch that served primarily as a way to give a macro-structure / in my mind first / to the information we were dealing with, highlighting how I imagined them being in “branches … in trees….” in this kind of way without really getting in depth in any kind of data.
And you will see a lot of question marks in my sketches, because I never really know if we can exactly do what I imagine to do!

__________________

 

giorgialupi.029

But this is interesting because it happens quite often that the act of exploring visual shapes, drawing them, raises questions.
As an example, in this case where I was “wondering-drawing” if we could look for recurrent authors among the papers, because honestly – I felt that it would be nice to have some sort of visual connections like arcs between those notes.
And I know it kinda seem an unorthodox process: but this is how it works sometimes, (I am trying to be very honest here).

__________________

 

giorgialupi.030

well, then drawing can also then serve as a sort of refining tool, at least for me:
…before even getting digital I need to have a drawing that visually can sum up of all the choices that we’ve made, …only this way I can feel ok about the project.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.031

In this other visualization, we tried to explore the hundred geniuses of language in human history as identified by the author Harold Bloom in the book called “Genius, a mosaic of one hundred creative minds”

__________________

giorgialupi.032

We’ve been very inspired from the book itself,  and by how he conceptually organized the chapters of the book following the Kabbalah Sephirots: he basically features 10 authors in each chapter, mirroring the Kabbalah structure and the names of the Sephirots, and arranging the hundred authors in the book this way.
And we tried to faithfully represent our geniuses as the author probably imagined them in his mind, without having the possibility to do it visually, (…or may be he did…? it would be amazing to see if Bloom was sketching to get it right !!)

__________________

 

giorgialupi.033

but,…. this Kabbalah thing …it is not really really beautiful and visually compelling per se, at least not for me.
Thus, I just abstracted the spatial organization of it, and tried to find ways to make it – hopefully – more elegant using the data at hand .

__________________

 

giorgialupi.034

The data, which were the authors’ information on:
– their birth period, / which is the lenght of the arc,
– profession, / which is the type of line,
– the continent they came from, / the color of the little square,
– if men or woman,
– but also the number of pages that Bloom dedicated to each author / which is the dimension of the yellow circle,
– and then we added this comparison on the number of page visits for the wikipedia page of the author, which is the blue one on top: seeing if Bloom was right about the people’s preferences.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.035

Here I think I was obsessively trying to understand which visual shapes could help in making this Kabbalah thing less ugly according to the data we had.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.036

and I remember that I thought of these authors as sort of flowers growing up with different lengths of their stem depending on their birth periods

__________________

 

giorgialupi.037

and finally we came up with this data visualization, and I’d say that here drawing for me was the tool to visually understand:
– I had a structure already in mind,
– but there was something I didn’t like about this structure, and I needed to draw-draw-draw and re-draw to test what actually looked beautiful and worked for the data.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.038

And I have a funny story on this, this is actually the favourite piece of my grandmother, and she does have this visualization printed and hanged on the wall of her living room!
I don’t think she really got neither the topic / nor the Exoteric reference to the Kabbalah, but she liked it because this aesthetics reminded her to “candleholders” as she called them, and I love how sometimes people “name” our abstract visualizations referring to something different, to something that clicked with their minds, referring most of the times to panoramas that are not what we / as designers / looked at to be inspired (I tried to cover this topic on my talk for Visualized 2014)

__________________

 

giorgialupi.039

But elaborating on this “hidden” visual inspiration:
sometimes, we can also be very literal and try to make the visual inspiration that we had really clear,  especially when it comes to visual languages that are already codified and conventional, and that have aesthetic rules – or features – everybody can recognize, such as abstract art, of course.
I showed last year, how a visit to the Moma’s “inventing abstraction” exhibition, was 100% functional to represent some datasets we were working on at the moment.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.040

At that moment, when I visited the Museum, we were working on many overlapping datasets on the phenomenon of the brain drain (i.e. researchers that decided to leave for another country) exploring a lot of parameters we tried to combine for 16 countries, to compare them, such as:
– how many researchers go abroad from the country,
– how many enter the country,
– how many are coming back after a period abroad,
– where do they mainly go,
but also we were adding lots of economic and social indicators about the country such as the unemployment rate, the female employment rate, percentages of foreigners and emigrants on regular population to give a possible context for this phenomenon.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.041

And while I was at the museum, I was totally struck by the beauty of those compound elements made by very regular shapes and primary colors such as in the paintings of Malevich, Kandinsky and Mondrian, and I spent the whole visit re-drawing before the paintings: I found so compelling to try to make those beautiful abstract compositions a little more “mine” !

__________________

 

giorgialupi.042

and immediately each of the countries we were analyzing started to appear in my mind as a compound element, whose parameters could be visually determined by  the positioning, rotation and spatial correlation of those geometrical shapes, and represented through primary colors.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.043

then, following this visual idea we decided to normalize all of the indicators so that they could be compared between each others as trends, and not as singular values, to give the general situation of the country, and to compose this sort of very abstract elements.
And here drawing became “digital drawing” before applying the real data trying to keep the colors as Mondrian would have liked them to be.

__________________

giorgialupi.044

and this is the final “Brain Drain” piece: where those simple abstract shapes found their natural path within the visual and for the data, for the comparisons we wanted to highlight. (and they actually perfectly work for recognizing some interesting – and unexpected – facts on the migration phenomenon)

__________________

 

giorgialupi.045

it happened quite the same but within the phase of definition of a “high level structure” of composition for another visualization we did, which displays the development of the character of Commissario Montalbano throughout all of the 19 novels written by Andrea Camilleri, an Italian author of detective novels.

__________________

giorgialupi.046

Here each novel is displayed as a vertical line that starts and ends with the initial and final sentence of the book,
and they are horizontally ordered chronologically from the first one to the last one and thus representing the evolution of the character.
And also here EVERYTHING started from the drawings, also the kind of research in the data that we did,
it started from some visuals explorations I was doing to understand:
– how to use very simple and basic elements to enable comparisons between the books.
– but using the composition of them to recreate a more elaborated sort of temporal score for the policeman,
__________________

 

giorgialupi.047

It happens pretty often in the very early stages of a project that I would just organize and arrange elements in the paper, freely, and then I understand which kind of parameters we could look for.
Such as in this case I would draw the books one after the other, and as I draw them I realize “it would be nice to have different lengths of these lines…how about the books’ actual length as a parameter.?”
…or that basically these vertical articulation could allow me to draw horizontal and transversal lines to visualize different set of data about the detective, very comparable horizontally.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.048

and so we did that, and we used these vertical lines to arrange all of the parameters,
and we would have the main characters frequency within the book, (through the dimension of the circles)  and including also special characters as murderers,  ….victims and eventual missing people,  (and oh, don’t worry: you can still enjoy reading the books since we didn’t reveal murderers and victims names…).

And since the detective is indeed a very routine-bound person,  we also visualized some funny and recurrent habits , in the middle (…like how many times he swims, walks, smokes, sings softly, and eats).

And I remember that in the first sketch I though how nice would it be to have something below that evolves more fluidly… “can we maybe look for the emotions’ evolution of the character getting older?” (emotions that are by definition not a so “exact value”, and that was why we looked for emotions in the text.)

__________________

 

giorgialupi.049

So: playing freely with aesthetics CAN help suggesting us which kind of data it would be interesting to represent: narrative models CAN start from visual explorations, why not?

__________________

 

giorgialupi.050 \

And talking about data, and sketching with and without data, I’ve been asked an interesting question by Moritz Stefaner (btw, we missed you a lot Moritz this year at Eyeo!) during a funny Data-Stories podcast we recorded in New York earlier this year.
And he basically asked me “Ok, Giorgia, but how about the real data, you sketch possibilities, but when do actual data come to the table…, since you guys do data-visualizations”

I’d sum it up by saying  that there are about 3 phases for me that I can describe as:

__________________

 

giorgialupi.051

(1)  a first phase when I am interested in the main macro categories of data:
…the kind of topics we are talking about ,
…the eventual correlations ,
…the number of elements we might have, (if they are fifty or five hundreds).

Here I am mainly interested in understanding the macro categories to start sketching first visual possibilities about the macro organization of the layout, the “architecture” of the visualization.
Here I don’t really use the actual values and numbers to set up the first ideas for the visual models, practically never, like you saw in the previous examples: and this is definitely the phase when visual ideas can drive the choice of the actual parameters to represent!

__________________

 

giorgialupi.052

(2)
then a second phase where I would just focus on the singular elements: the entry points that we have, to figure out which shapes, colors, features we might invent to better represent them according to the type of variables we have, and to maybe see if we can get some macro-groups / underlying categories.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.053

(3)
and to conclude we would generally have a final phase when we would structure what I’d expect of finally having in illustrator, but in paper.
Here is when we’re pretty sure that we can go ahead with the visual models we designed (or that we re-designed…), and I would refine the sketch before getting digital to have everything in the same place, to have a draft piece that can be easily sharable with clients for quick feedbacks and comments.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.054

and well, this is not another phase, but it is maybe the most “common” use that everybody can see in drawing, after you get a “refined” one (you here are seeing the visualization the drawings were for). If you’re able to structure a drawing – again – not beautiful, who cares, but a drawing that gives people you’re working with or you’re working for  a clear idea of what you have in mind…well this can really be an interesting way of saving time.
the only downside of it is that sometimes you might find clients that simply fall in love with the sketch and would ask you  “would it look like that even in the final version right?”
…well not really … even if sometimes you can take it as a nice suggestion…

__________________

 

giorgialupi.055

like we tried to do here: it is a project that is a side-ongoing collaboration with two friends of ours,  Mafe de Baggis and Filippo Pretolani, and it happened that while I was sketching visuals for the user experience for this mobile application we simply fell in love with the idea of having an hand drawn feeling for the final design, especially given the very topic of it: which is linking emotions and places.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.056

It’s called Pleens, and it is a mobile application with the aim of understanding  if and how – a “more human and warm” design for a check-in based mobile application can foster people to share more meaningful contents regarding their attachment to places: showing what they feel in places and why in the form of short stories and messages.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.057

It is full of geo-localization based applications and we of course know them and some of them are really great.
it’s just that maybe, /and this was our guess at the beginning/ for how they are designed,  and for the kind of user experience that they offer they are not 100% capable to capture and report  the qualitative emotions that we charge places we like with.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.058

In fact, as feelings are not quantifiable,  and they never deal with numbers and sequential operations, we tried to design a very emotional interface: with the idea to test if the beauty or emotionality of the interface AND the aesthetic gesture and interaction with the application COULD by themselves enhance and foster the willing to actually use it.
What you’re seeing here are my first visual explorations, and as always, it was the act of drawing these small hearts , aggregating them by time, in the space of the application that made me think about possible functionalities!

__________________

giorgialupi.059

After I explored the possibilities for the overall user experience, we paired up with a friend of mine: Michela Buttignol, she is an illustrator that has a very particular technique and style, and she helped us replicate these feeling I was sketching down working on textures and strokes, and digital feelings.

__________________

VIDEO
http://www.accurat.it/files/eyeo/pleens.mp4

ok, but how does it work?
this is actually a short video of the alpha version of Pleens (link to the video above)
When you open the application a “white-paper” environment with a “pulsing” little red heart ready to be thrown out in space welcomes you.
– you simply throw the heart, with the gesture of throwing
– it falls on the map recognizing where you are, or you can move the map, if you think it got it wrong,
– you can choose which kind of emotion is it by changing the heart (we have many of them) but they come with no official description, you just pick the one that looks right for the moment,
– you can the dedicate it to the person you’re thinking of in that place,  and you can add your own message,
– and you can decide where to share it,  …is it public?  …is it just of the two of you…,  …or maybe just for you to remember that place…?
and of course you will have your explorable Pleens on the map, reminding you the places you were feeling emotions in and confirming – maybe- which parts and places in cities you really like.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.061

I hope that it’s clear why we tried to keep this hand-drawn style here also for the actual application…
Pleens, still misses the real social part,  this one that you’ve seen in the video is a test version and it still has limited functionalities it’s on the Apple store for free, (only for Iphones right now!) we’re planning to finally put our heads on it and develop it further during this year, including some of these dreams I was sketching down here.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.062

But as much as drawing while designing and for designing for me is fundamental,  I find also useful and extremely rewarding the very act of  drawing to explore shapes and compositions with no purpose,  but just for the pleasure that I have in drawing.
It’s drawing “per se”, ….random drawing, when I don’t have a specific data-visualization project in mind,
and as much I feel it’s just a hobby for me I also think it ends up being very very functional to my design.

__________________

VIDEO
http://www.accurat.it/files/eyeo/drawing.mp4

I find myself pretty often actually doing this kind of “random-drawings”.
I LIKE IT. Very much. And, about these drawings (in the video above) it is not the result that I like, that’s not the point, they are not particularly meaningful as pieces: it’s the idea of looking at things and tracing them down adding what my mind sees in them,
…or tracing down what I feel about something that I am listening to at the moment, just visually.
Another point that came to my mind while I was trying to understand how this works for me : I found that,  when I’m sketching the things that happen to attract my curiosity  I always try to interpret both the single visual elements and the overall composition:
– the overall spatial structure of what I am in front of ,
– and the small tiny details of the shapes of the element in it,
simply mixing them down in a new spatial organisation.

it just fascinates me how we look at the world,  how we recognize things based on what we’ve visually experienced before, and mixing them with what we have in mind at the moment, what we are experiencing in this moment, and then projecting everything into something new, when drawing something down.

__________________

giorgialupi.064

these kind of experiments can be done manually but also digitally, I do it both even if I still find pens and paper more rewarding, phisically rewarding!
I love paper, lines and the immediacy of the feedback that the paper itself gives you.

__________________

giorgialupi.065

And all of this “abstract drawing” produces already plenty of visual material – related to the field I am working in – that I already made mine, that I already digested and thought about, ready to be used as a very “close” and personal source of inspiration

__________________

giorgialupi.066

as an example, this is absolutely nothing: it was a total random digital drawing that I did, while I was doing I don’t remember what, I just liked the over all of these triangles with small eyes and some circular friends around, I put it in my repository and that’s it for the moment.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.067

But we recently re-uses those explorations for a visualization on art auctions by Sotheby, analyzing the data for the the five hundreds pieces that have been sold at the highest price and a lot of interesting information on them.
Can you spot some already digested elements there?
They’re fitting particularly well with the data that we’re analysing actually,
…also the rotation of the triangles is an interesting feature to assign to certain parameters we found on the difference between the estimated selling price for the pieces and the actual selling price.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.068

you’ve seen always abstract shapes in my drawings, which I love, I only have one very subject for which I become figurative,  and it is a further obsession I wasn’t sure to share,  but let’s do it.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.069

I have a pretty big collection of ugly ugly portraits of my boyfriend,  which happens to be also one of my partners at Accurat, but why?
Simply, most of the times we’re together while not working, having a beer at a pub or dinner at a restaurant (which actually happens pretty often because I don’t really like cooking), well I would simply draw him while we talk, without thinking,  while I talk either... I just can’t help doing it…!

__________________

 VIDEO
http://www.accurat.it/files/eyeo/gabriele.mp4
(this one, you have to see it)

yes. they are UGLY.
Because, honestly I am terrible at portraits, I am terrible at representing the actual reality.
…sometimes he doesn’t even have his eyes,
…sometimes he misses some other physical features…
and he doesn’t really look like these drawings, at all, I don’t think you would recognize him by looking at those images.

And why I showed them at Eyeo: first of all because as I said, I was trying to be as complete as possible on my “whole thing with drawing”.
But also because honestly even if nobody can say that these are beautiful drawings, the fact that you can find a subject that you like and start regularly trying to depict it,  it makes a “satisfying” collection of drawings to keep, doesn’t’ it?
And it could be a good starting point to begin with for everybody I think !

__________________

 giorgialupi.071

oh and anyway,  he as well thinks I am not that good with portraits actually…
(that was nice of him though)

__________________

 

giorgialupi.072

I guess I am up for “drawing” some conclusions now.
Well, apart from the last parenthesis, I wanted to shape up this personal talk on this very analogic topic because we everybody work with data, information, and quantities, and variables, we everybody work digitally the 90% of our time, and thanks God that we can do it,

__________________

 

giorgialupi.073

Specifically in my work which is data visualization, I think a very common approach is to start from what the tools we use (being D3, processing, tableau or even the basic excel graphs….) can produce, and maybe also from what we feel more comfortable in doing with these tools (unless you are a genius coder that doesn’t see the code anymore but just the final output, but this is not my case of course).

__________________

 

giorgialupi.074

And generally speaking, you don’t wanna focus on this right?

The fact then when I am designing a data visualizations, and when I am sketching what comes into mind, the fact that I can’t have data on the pen and on the paper, I feel it is very helpful to explore visual features and visual aggregations that start exactly from what you have in mind, and that can serve to open questions on the data itself. I see it  as a shortcut from your head to the final piece.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.075

Of course this is not so linear as I described and, obviously, you would need to have an execution and programming part after that  (because – in real life – not all of the clients unfortunately are ok on buying just the sketches), but what I wanted to point out with it is really the approach to the whole process.
I love this sentence that I found I don’t remember where in some books:
“drawing as a tactile feedback for your mind”  and I think it gives the idea of what I was trying to say throughout all of the talk.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.076

…which is also what I realized that drawing simply does to my mind: in a way, it really gives shape to my inner thoughts, and it helps me see and understand on the page.
I’m not usually as a human being able to perfectly get and define what I’m thinking,  or what pops up in my mind about a design project, a data visualization project.
I usually say that I cannot think about a project without a pen and some paper, ( and I actually can’t !! I swear !!
I am so jealous of the people that could talk projects while walking for example!)
...the only way I can evaluate my ideas or intuitions is by seeing them coming to life on paper.
I know that drawing is my way to understand I had an idea in the first place!

__________________

 

giorgialupi.077

This is why I do it without any prejudice: letting my hand freely go, and really without asking if it makes sense for the project, in that very moment if it’s the right thing to do, or if it’s that shape is the most appropriate.
I then look at what I’ve drawn and I can decide weather to work on it, engaging this loop between thoughts –  paper – and sight.
…And I just encourage you to try to do the same, and approach drawing less scientifically and more naively;
I figured that the the best design ideas come to me when I am playing freely with the ‘problem’ in mind than trying to find out specific solutions for the problem.

 

__________________

 

giorgialupi.078

Drawing is useful to show an idea you already defined, but it’s infinitely more powerful to help that idea take shape.
I don’t know how this can be integrated into the process of other designers or artists,
I believe each one has to find his own way to deal with his creativity.

I just know that it works perfectly for me and it’s the only way I can do my job: it’s my own way of thinking.

And it was incredibly useful to stop and realize it, and elaborate on it, and I’d really encourage any of you also to sometimes stop and get a “detour” on your mind and your obsessions like I did.
And coming back to data visualization, I think that is valuable to try to embrace this indeterminism: these open possibilities that derive from free visual explorations, without boundaries.

it is valuable to accept that we can also get lost, to find the best way to get where we are supposed to go.

__________________

 

giorgialupi.080

 

About giorgia lupi

1981 I am an architect that never built any house (luckily). I work with information, designing, researching and drawing a lot. I am co-founder ad design director at Accurat (www.accurat.it) I am a PhD student at Milan Politecnico (www.densitydesign.org)

2 comments

  1. Pingback: George Orwell on sketching…. | WUNDER BILDER

  2. Magnus

    So interesting an so well put. Beautiful sketches by the way.
    I discovered that shaping my own thoughts works the same way as you described. Unfortunately I work more on the code side of the InfoViz and that keeps me from drawing too often.
    Maybe I should practice more often…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: