Expert Galleries: Andy Kirk
Andy Kirk is a UK based data visualization design consultant and educator and is the editor of the data visualization blog www.visualisingdata.com. Like our previous curator, Stefanie Posavec, Andy was a speaker at our 2011 London Marathon and has been a Visualizing.org challenge judge on two occasions. We invited Andy to give his perspective in our latest Expert Gallery.
How and why did you choose the focus of the gallery?
I’m a sucker for time-based visualizations; I love immersing myself in the stories that emerge from well-executed temporal visualization techniques. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to browse through the wonderful collection of work on Visualizing.org and dig out a self-imposed top ten gallery of visualizations that told me a story.
What is your favorite piece in the gallery and why?
That’s a difficult question to have to answer because these are all superb works and represent a broad range of different techniques. Firstly, as people who attend my workshops will attest, I love the 'Wood Changes' piece by Luis Carli. It’s a subject that might not excite many but the visual design and interaction experience is hugely elegant, provoking you to explore it and learn about the subject. Next up would be any of the ‘barcode’ type pieces. We have works about the NBA and the NHL drafts but I will pull out Andrew Garcia Phillips (one of my favourite designers) and his work 'Rebound, if not Recovery' that combines individual narratives over time with multiple comparisons across a range of relevant indicators, compounding the potential insight discovery. I also love the boldness and courage involved in the diagonal layout of the 'Nobel Laureates' piece by Accurat. Such interesting use of the page space and an innovative tactic to extract more room in which to fit ones work in. A special mention too for the 'Movie Plot Storylines' by Tanahashi. I’m a big Star Wars fan, what else need I say?
What is one insight you'd like viewers to take away from the gallery?
Many of these projects involve the portrayal of relatively complex subject matter. Their effectiveness comes from the ability of the designers to make such topics accessible through clear design without having to dilute or overly reduce the information being presented. Of course, in certain contexts your objective will be to simplify a subject for your audience but this should not be the sole aim of all work: sometimes we need to preserve the inherent complexity and focus instead on the design choices necessary to give our audience the most frictionless route into it.
What is one insight you discovered in making the gallery?
If anything, I developed the sense that the ability to tell compelling stories using time-based data can be taken for granted, yet it is a real art form and very easy to discern good from bad work. Indeed, it could be put forward as one of the true tests of a visualization or infographic designer: whether they can effectively convey motion, narrative, and the comparison of change in a clear and accessible form for broad audiences.