Oh Lord, anything but those Weather Channel graphics…

Searching for good dataviz? Look no further!

Hello again all! Back home safe from an absolutely wonderful and busy conference. So, without further ado, I finally have time to catch everyone up on John Grimwade’s (woo!) thoroughly entertaining and beneficial presentation on data visualization that I had the pleasure of attending yesterday afternoon.

Right off the bat, John expressed his belief that the majority of data visualization these days really isn’t that good (NO MORE pizza pie charts, please), which I consider to be an extremely valid point. Lots of what is being made is totally missing the point of data visualization altogether in that such graphics are focusing more on aesthetics rather than utility. Why make a graphic if people aren’t going to be able to actually learn something from it? Sure, it’s fun to make super complex and shiny-looking graphics, but artists must still keep in mind that they need to shift their focus back to the basics before going crazy with useless spirograph-like visualizations. Essentially, we all have to consider this question (and very important distinction, as I might add): “are we seeing art and information in a loving embrace, or are we seeing them in a punch out?” Only when these two things are in sweet, sweet harmony do we see the most impressive visuals.

Naturally, John showed us some really solid examples of dataviz and free tools used to create it (most of which can be found here). The one that really stuck with me was Microsoft’s online “Photosynth” application, which essentially “takes a large collection of photos of a place or object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed 3-Dimensional space” (quoted from this video of the technology). Yes, that’s right: the photos’ angles are detected and adjusted so that a stitched-together 3-D visualzation is created in the end. Really freakin’ cool! Grab some vacation photos and give it a go here. I was also really wowed by Andrew Zuckerman’s vibrant and one-of-a-kind bird photography, which you can find here. I’m strongly considering purchasing his book!

Probably the hardest I laughed during the presentation was when John mentioned his disdain for The Weather Channel’s deplorable graphics. Those things are seriously really freakin’ gawdy, not to mention the fact that the colors of the meteorologists’ clothes sometimes blend in with the graphics themselves. Yikes.

So, to wrap things up, Mr. Grimwade can most definitely rest assured that his entire presentation was quite fun and enriching overall, much like the rest of this weekend’s conference. To each and every person involved in making SND Denver what it was: thank you SO MUCH for such a wonderful and unforgettable time, and I’m totally stoked for St. Louis next year.



About Matthew Bambach

Hey there! After three years of undergrad and two internships (Bryan Christie Design and The Seattle Times) I currently find myself in my final year of undergraduate studies in the Honors College at Michigan State University. My primary focus is in visual storytelling, with specific interests in human-centered design, interactivity, information graphics, semantics and typography. And, of course, I'm always down for exploring new places, listening to music, riding my bike, reading, listening to Radiolab, having conversation and enjoying a good ol' cup of coffee.

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