INSPIRATION

As I was looking for a more visual inspiration based and steered upon data, I stumbled upon this cool concept of two ladies drawing with data. The story of Giorgia Lupi & Stefanie Posavec intrigued me. Allow me to briefly sketch the scene before diving into this process below.

DEAR DATA BOOK

Both of the ladies bumped into each other at an arts festival and discovered that they had a lot in common. The became friends and started sharing details of their lives with each other. By drawing postcards. Yes, drawing. Turning daily data into a drawn postcard with a matching legend. 52 weeks in a row.

THE PROCESS

As I’m a bit familiar with data due to my interest in knowledge (I’m keen on Analytics), I didn’t thought this process would be that hard. It triggered me to come out of my comfort zone, although I rapidly found a good methodology to structure the data.

PICK A THEME

First I picked a random topic. As coffee is one of the main drinks I get at work, besides water, it made sense to do something with coffee. As the coffee machine at work & at home is placed in the kitchen, and most of the conversations I have with several people happen in these places, it made a lot of sense to make this the theme of the week.

COLLECT THE DATA AND CLASSIFY FOR COMFORT

As each week of data had a legend, I needed to have a classification to some extent to track the right data. At first, it felled a bit awkward to come up with a classification first, as this is not the normal way of a data project. In theory (if you search the web), you collect data first and then you classify. Actually, it’s almost a simultaneous exercise you need to make. So I iterated through some ideas in a few minutes.

Classification sketch

Classification sketch

This is actually a very good & useful exercise to make people aware how challenging classification of data can be. Even on this micro level. It made me even more humble than I was before. If this is done by someone that has no experience in data whatsoever, I hope it makes the person erase the term ‘big data’ from his vocabulary. Give it a spin. You’ll understand what I mean.

TRANSLATING DATA INTO DRAWING

To me, this was the hardest part of the whole process. Coming up with how to draw this data. Going through the book, I found ready the data quite hard actually because the biggest focus of the book is based on drawing and the creativity. The book contains more exploratory visualizations than an explanatory visualizations.

Especially Giorgas’ drawings (picture above - left). Her drawings are more arty. Stefanies’ drawings (picture above - right) are more readable, which get my preference if it comes to making data readable. Don’t get me wrong. I love Giorgias take on the data. It fascinates me, but I’m currently not comfortable to make such an artistic expression myself.

I tried some things first in my moleskin. The first try-outs were plain shit.

First try-outs

Although, as time went by, things evolved towards something better. I eventually landed a fairly clear and simple set of visual entities that would cover the data in, almost, a blink of an eye. Which I currently prefer. Al I had to do was start drawing.

STARTING TO DRAW

First, I made my canvas and mapped out the days of the week I collected the data (by hand by the way - no app involved).

I decided, as this was my first data drawing ever, to use a simple black and white approach. So a simple black marker did the trick.

And so i I began drawing…

It took my a few days to draw the full week, as I build-in some breaks. Just to be sure I didn’t screw up. Eventually, the result looked quite nice. With the legend even.

As friday was a special day at the office, I didn’t track (I forgot) anything after 9 am. Yet, I wanted it to be a part of the drawing, as Stefanie and Giorgia also added their losses into their drawings. The final result of the pure black and white drawing can be found below this paragraph. Worked out well, I think. Don't you?

ADDING SOME COLOUR

At first, I wanted to stop here in order not to fuck up. But that day I finished drawing, I found my crayons back I used to use during my years of following art classes. It triggered me to add colour to the drawing. I added some touches of colour and even mixed it up a little bit by spilling coffee over the drawing.Yes, that was on purpose!

I enjoyed this part actually the most of the whole process. The creative extra touch.

THE END RESULT

TADAAAAAAA !!!

LEARNINGS

  • Data collection by hand is hard (I’m so not structured/organized)
  • The classification part came easy to me
  • Finding the visual translations of those data points in something that is understandable in a blink of an eye is quite challenging, yet achievable
  • I need to draw bigger (dare to draw bigger)
  • Adding colours, different shapes, fillings, playing with volume and sizes, … will definitely make these data design drawings more interesting
  • It would be interesting to combine pen, ink, paint and other substances to get to something astonishing

I’ll do some more in the future. It’s fun.

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