Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017: The Year Of... Data?

I have struggled with the Happy New Year sentiment this year. I'm not sure why I'm feeling like such a scrooge about it... I remained an optimist through even the tougher times in 2016.
For some reason, I'm always more excited about even years than odd, though that has nothing to do with the outcome of the year.
Perhaps my anxiety comes from not knowing what this year will bring. Although I have reveled in the transitions and impermanence of my life, career and activities for the last ten years... the curveballs this last year threw at me, has left me nervous for what could come. To be honest, I'm half expecting nuclear fallout, unfixable environmental destruction or complete societal shutdown if not all of the above, or worse.... but I'm going to quiet my apocalyptic fantasies for now, and focus on my theme of the year... data.

I'm sure it seems weird for a hippie tree-hugger to devote a year to data. What does that even mean?

I listened to an eye-opening podcast by Ted Radio Hour called Big Data Revolution on a recent drive from Detroit to NM. The podcast was packed with information about where our data is stored, how much data we're currently using in our every day lives...and what the future of data storage is going to be like. That part was particularly scary for me. If I had my way, I would live on an island away from electronics and fish and build and play in the sun. (Coming from someone who has never eaten caught fish...) But I have been forced to adapt to this world of ever-expanding technological "advances," in our rapidly growing population. It frightens me to think about. One concept of the talk was how much data is being collectes about our decisions by our devices, amd the very realistic advances in advertising, insurance, and career possibilities that will come of that. It's certainly worth a listen.

So "WHY is Data the theme of your year?" you might inquire.

Cause as much as I'm a luddite-- I love making lists, collecting and organizing data, and then illustrating it. The last part I'm just learning about myself. In the last few months of 2016, with the aid of my therapist, I've begun to illustrate the things I couldn't communicate. As a visual learner/processor, I typically translate everything I read or hear into images. Now I'm teaching myself to illustrate those images onto paper. It's more difficult than it may seem. An idea may seem so clear in my head, but when I try to translate it into 2 dimensions, I have to really concentrate on what goes on which axis, or what is designated by colors versus shapes.

Image result for left brain right brain
My brain is a healthy mix of data collecting/list-making left and abstract, color-rich right. Maybe 60/40. 

Two resources have helped inspire me to do this.
1) A book I got for Christmas (thanks mom) called The Best American Best Infographics of 2016. Full of beautifully represented data-- and from all areas of the world. From Super Bowl stats to Political progression to forest density decline-- these are some choice graphics that illustrate hard to understand concepts or ideas. While informative, they are a bit overwhelming, although this book pointed me to:
2) Dear-Data: a collection of post cards that two graphic designers illustrated every week for a year, on the back of a postcard they sent to each other. The result is amazing, accessible and inspiring.

So my hope for this year, is to work on the way I illustrate my brain, for my own understanding as well as my ability to teach other visual learners. But I'm also hoping to collect some DATA about myself-- from how often I wash my clothes to how long I can hold a handstand. It might seem a silly thing to do amidst what I perceive as political peril-- but I think that keeping track of the mundane little things may provide a comforting context for our ever changing world.

Stay tuned... AND-- if you have any advice for classes or resources to learn more about graphic design. I'm certainly not looking to become a graphic designer, but I have such an interest in data visualizations, especially non-electronic... if anyone has ideas.

Happy 2017?

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