From the Design Desk: Data-Driven Design

Data-driven design or information graphics is not something we get to dabble with too much here at Chronicle. We often create information icons, and we always think about text hierarchy, but expressing a lot of data in a creative fashion is usually tackled in magazines or special reports. Good Magazine has been crafting ingeniously-designed infographics addressing everything from politics to culture. Below, they analyze how many people believe aliens live among us.

New York Magazine featured this pink-colored sex map in which data from the dating site OkCupid was broken down by Harvard mathematicians to reveal the attractiveness, interest in sex, kinkiness, and selectivity of New York neighborhoods. In fact, there’s a lot of interesting work being done using data from blogs, comments on the web, and online commerce that showcase changing perspectives, preferences and moods—often in real time. Researchers from Northeastern University and Harvard Medical School developed an innovative way to analyze the nation’s mood using tweets in their Pulse of the Nation project. Below is a visualization of the mood changes in the US over the course of a day.

The information designer Edward Tufte is known for championing controlled, clear and unadorned information design. But other designers and artists are creating stunning and immensely expressive ways to organize data. Nicholas Felton’s annual reports are both visually arresting and beautiful. But if you take one thing away from this blog post, it should be the data-driven designs and book covers by the UK-based American designer Stefanie Posavec.

Stefanie’s work is mesmerizing. Her project Writing Without Words explored methods of visually representing text and shows the differences in writing styles among various authors. You can see how she analyzed Jack Kerouac’s On The Road in this Design Mind article, and you can buy a print of her work on Walter Benjamin: A Literary Organism Analysis on 20×200.

Whereas I love Good Magazine’s informational graphics, I’m delighted at how the data-driven work of Stefanie Pasavec blurs the line between art and design.

Suzanne LaGasa


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