I joined the #vizmarathon 2012 at the meetup in University College London on Friday, where Alastair Moore uf UCL Advances had prepared a great environment to work in and provided pizza and beer. After getting the brief and the datasets, we watched the keynote speech by Richard Saul Wurman. Sitting in his comfortable chair in his home office / library, he inspired all of us, but also got me into thinking about the relevance of data visualizations.
Richard Saul Wurman, born 1935, is considered to be one of the most important contributors in graphic design in the last century. His life is dedicated to making information understandable to himself and others, a goal which he pursued in over 80 books. As the father of the TED conferences (Technology, Entertainment, Design), he has definitely made an impressive impact to society at large. He coined the term „Information Architecture“ in 1976. Read with care, as all this information comes from Wikipedia and Wurman himself stated in his talk that 30% of the information on Wikipedia is wrong. I also consulted his biography on the AIGA website.
„We only understand something
when we can relate it to something we understand.“
Richard Saul Wurman in the #vizmarathon 2012 keynote
His talk was truly inspirational. But it was also, as I have found out now, the reason why I coudn’t finish anything to submit to the marathon this weekend. His message was: „content over technology“: we should not concentrate on recent technologies, as they will be gone soon, but focus entirely what you yourself think is important, things you don’t understand. We are on a „quest to inform“, and to Wurman „most information is data that doesn’t inform me“. Good work only comes from trusting your own ignorance and is based on your own personal needs, desires, knowledge, questions and journeys. Only if we can make things understandable to ourselves, there will be a chance that someone else can relate to it and understand it. So finally I found that the datasets provided on disease alerts, international flight connections and US election twitter feeds did not relate to myself, and I was unable to find a relevant story behind it, so I had to give up after initial sketches. But I’m really impressed by all the outcome from the other teams worldwide!
„Don’t invest in anything but content.
Make things truly understandable – that’s king!“
Richard Saul Wurman
Visualizing Global Marathon Keynote