If my last blog post about data journalism wasn’t a dead give away – I’m not a huge fan of numbers. Just the mere mention of numerical equations results in terrifying flashbacks of failing 10th Grade Algebra. So when the course outline listed two weeks worth of topics purely on data, I was less than thrilled. But turns out data visualisation is actually visually beautiful, and can have layers of meaning.
Pictured below: Not Me – It’s A Fan of Numbers, Puntastic
In 1957, Frank Lloyd Wright defined art as a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use. Data, on the other hand, typically records information about occurring phenomena. While some may find numbers fascinating and certainly suitable for human use, I personally don’t find them subjectively beautiful as numbers on their own. Yet once the data is rendered, or presented, in a manner that is visually presentable to the numerically illiterate,
Projects like the An Examination of US Gun Murders (screenshot below) thoroughly exemplify the marriage of numerical data and beautiful visuals to create art with meaning that can then be taken away to be used by humans. Demonstrating the number of gun killings in the US, the age at which the victims died (represented by the orange parts of the lines) in comparison to the age at which they would have been expected to die due to natural causes. The piece isn’t only informative but evokes a stirring of emotions as the harsh realisation of years of life lost to senseless violence soars higher and higher on the counter on the top right of the screen.