Wireframe

How do designers use data visualization to take the numb out of numbers?

June 7, 2021

Do you know what “flatten the curve” means? If so it’s likely in part due to the hard work by data visualization designers over the last year. Our society is now more data driven than ever; as everything is quantified, counted, and dumped into spreadsheets, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by numbers. Data visualization designers work to sort through the numbers using both science and creativity to find the stories they have to tell, and help us understand the world a little better. But what goes into designing an effective data visualization, and how do you balance the art and the science of it? In this episode of Wireframe, host Khoi Vinh, and producers Dominic Girard and Pippa Johnstone, learn how designers are building charts, games, and more to take the numb out of numbers.

If you’ve been fighting over housework during lock down, you’re not alone. Designer Amy Cesal and her husband, Zander Furnas used data visualization to clean up the messy business of their own household chores, and made the invisible, visible, along the way. 

Shirley Wu, worried that people weren’t taking the pandemic seriously enough. Her data visualization game, People of the Pandemic, helps us understand the consequences of defying stay at home orders. 

And Alberto Cairo outlines the responsibilities data visualization designers must balance when designing with data. He’s the author of How Charts Lie, and the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the School of Communication of the University of Miami.

The New York Times visualization we referenced is here. The Washington Post’s most read article is a data visualization that you can see here. Listen to NASA’s X-ray sonification here, the sonification of American COVID deaths here, and Jordan Wirfs-Brock’s sonification of last year’s stock market volatility here (it happens at 4:18). 

Find a transcript to this episode here.

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