When asked “Do I have to draw you a picture?” say, yes please.

The new word for “draw me a picture” is data visualization – the latest and greatest craze to hit the designer’s world of buzz words. It’s making big roads in journalism too as we attempt to find easier ways of relaying more and more data to an information addicted public. It’s starts with twitter maps and where it ends is anyone’s guess. But it’s exciting to see the modest graphs from economic textbooks flower into a new art form where information meets esthetics and delivers knowledge in a memorable way. Be still my beating heart.

Certainly most won’t share my enthusiasm for the metier (I am an economics grad who loves art who works in design and publishing for a living, so you’ll forgive me my zest for this), but we can certainly share in this public embrace of simplifying complex data through graphic visualization. And anyone’s who’s ever had to read an excel spreadsheet can surely appreciate that.

The grand daddy of data visualization artists of this generation is undoubtedly Edward Tufte

A new star on the horizon is this young turk from California, Aaron Koblin. Check out his data visualization of aircraft traffic in North America from his recent TED talk. Mind blowing stuff.

Of course, drawing pictures is nothing new. In fact, we learn to draw before we learn to read, write and count. It doesn’t depend on language – just ask anyone’s whose had to draw a picture to find the nearest hotel or coffee shop in a country where they don’t speak the language.

From cave drawings to frescoes to gawd awful road signs (most of which are terribly noisy visual distractions, if you ask me). We use drawings to share messages, views and news.

A visit to our office where we use design as powerful problem solving (or challenge meeting if you’re a glass half full type) usually starts with a blank piece of paper and some colouring pencils. Lines and shapes and colours help us map our way to improvement through design.

So next time someone insinuates you don’t understand their words by asking if they need to draw you a picture – say yes, please – and see where the journey takes you. And if you need pencil and paper, swing by our office some time. We’ll be the ones colouring outside the lines.

PS – just found this online. another great example – plus, it answers the age old question, what’s my degree worth anyway?


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