Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Expressing Data Through Art

For those who like to break barriers, consider the use of art as a visualization technique in business. An excerpt from the Business Week article:

The exhibition opens with a room full of visually stunning displays that are as compelling as the contemporary paintings or sculptures that viewers might expect to see in a MoMA gallery. The show begins with "Lightweeds," a striking example of data visualization by young Dutch designer Simon Heijdens. The work features light projections of silhouettes of giant weeds with realistic stalks, stems, leaves, and buds.

The plant images are produced by a software program developed by Heijdens, and the computer it runs on is hooked up to a live weather sensor outside the museum. The plants' size, shape, and movement reflect real-life conditions outdoors—meaning they would shrivel if there were a drought or flourish in a healthy mix of rain and sun. The piece is a wonderfully poetic example of how design can turn raw data (in this case, the weather) into a display that communicates information in a compelling and engaging manner. Businesses would be wise to pay attention to hip designers such as Heijdens, who also could have ideas for intriguing retail displays or arresting ways to communicate other data such as stock market fluctuations.

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