Sunday, October 31, 2010

Visualization Marathon!

So, last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the first annual Visualization Marathon at Eyebeam in NYC.
I was on a team with three other very talented MICA students, Bryan Connor, Ann Lui and Isabel Uria.

The marathon was actually a competition between teams of (mostly graduate) students from various institutions including MICA, Harvard, Columbia, Pratt, SVA, and Parsons. The design marathon was divided into two parts: Friday Night - Welcome and Lectures from Paola Antonelli, Jer Thorp, Lisa Strausfeld, Brooke Singer and Tahir Hempill. Saturday 12pm to Sunday 12pm - Design an infographic from a variety of abstract information in excell spreadsheets that visualized the impact of humanity's footprint on the sustainability of Spaceship Earth (see Buckminster Fuller). I really enjoyed the short lectures at the beginning of the marathon, at first they were slightly intimidating, especially Jer Thorp's, which was super intense. I really appreciated Lisa Strausfeld's talk about process, which made the idea of creating great work more relatable. It was great to share that learning experience with the rest of the competitors, at it provided a base of shared knowledge. For whatever reason I took great comfort in knowing that together we had a shared base of knowledge.

Then came the marathon. The most challenging part was not designing or staying awake for 24 hours straight, but rifling though all of the data and figuring out what exactly to visualize. Data visualization is so important. It makes important, abstract ideas accessible to more people. In 2010, the public has access to a lot of info, but can't really process it because of the means it is presented. I felt like I was fulfilling some kind of civic duty in creating this piece of work. This particular graphic is to be used in an upcoming climate summit in Cancun, Mexico.

Once my team got gathered all of our info (which really, i can't even begin to emphasize how tumultuous that experience was) around 12 am, we started to design through the night. I am so grateful to have been part of a team where we could acknowledge our individual strengths and then divide and conquer . At points it was hard, mostly because it was 4am and we were all trying to create beautiful informative vectors running on far too much caffeine. And then, at 11:52 am, we were finished!

The Infographic

We find out who won the contest (and personally engraved iPads) November 5.

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