“I see beauty in data,” says Giorgia Lupi, whose unique approach to information design is making waves around the world. She has spent the better part of the last decade exploring how data can be used as a tool to better understand human nature and explain the complexities of our time. This 28-29 October, Giorgia will join us live at WDCDMX GNP 2021 to talk about how she finds the “stories that are hidden in the numbers.”
Today, Giorgia is a partner at Pentagram and co-founder of Accurat, an internationally-acclaimed data design firm with offices in Milan and New York. You’ll find her work on the cover of magazines, racking up millions of views online or exhibited in some of the world’s most prestigious museums. But early in her career, her sights were actually set on becoming an architect.
“I have a masters in architecture, but I have never built any houses,” she tells us over email. “During my studies I found that I was particularly fascinated by the scale of the city and urban mapping projects, and also by how to represent the many layers of information underlying an architecture project.” After graduation, she spent several years collaborating with various interaction design firms in Italy, often working on projects that involved complex systems of knowledge. “I progressively discovered that data can be an incredible lens with which to build stories and ideas, and at the same time a creative material that we can use to visually narrate it. I simply fell in love with this world and the realms of possibilities it opens.”
Data Humanism – A Visual Manifesto.
The human side of data
Since then, Giorgia has built an influential practice on the principles of what she calls Data Humanism, a philosophy for reconnecting data to what it stands for: our lives, stories and ideas. She explains: “The premise is that—as banal as it sounds—data does not exist. Data is an instrument that we created to record reality, but it is always a placeholder for something else and never the real thing.” This is why Giorgia believes that instead of focusing on the numbers, technologies or algorithms around data, we should make room for a more personal approach that allows for context, serendipity and even imperfections. For her, this tension is where the magic lies: “I see data visualisation design as the combination of my artistic side and my extremely rational one. What drives me in what I do is the overlapping space between analysis and intuition, between logic and beauty, between numbers and images.”
“Data is an instrument that we created to record reality, but it is always a placeholder for something else.”
It follows that there’s a certain sensitivity to narrative in all of Giorgia’s projects, whether you’re looking at an immense data-tapestry for the Triennale di Milano which illustrates humanity’s impact on the planet, or an augmented reality app for Google which invites people to explore global trends in real-time. She is also known for her love of all things analogue, and her often poetic personal projects. One of the most well known is 2015’s Dear Data: a year-long collaboration between Giorgia in New York and designer Stefanie Posavec in London. Every week for 52 weeks, the pair measured a particular type of data about their lives—from the things that made them laugh, to the doors they passed through—and used this data to draw beautifully annotated postcards which they sent across the ocean. A more recent example is 2020’s Happy Data: a series of bite-sized data visualisations highlighting positive news during a time of crisis.
The Room of Change at Broken Nature, XXII Triennale di Milano. Photo: Gianluca Di Ioia.
Building Hopes for Google News Initiative.
Dear Data, in collaboration with Stefanie Posavec.
Visualising health and wellbeing
In the same year, she also landed on the cover of The New York Times’ At Home section with her hand-drawn documentation of life during the Covid-19 pandemic. A few months later, she was commissioned to create an interactive exhibit for Mindworks, helping people to discover the science behind why we think and do what we do. Now, Giorgia reveals that she’s still thinking a lot about health, and the role that data can play in communicating physical and mental wellbeing. “I believe design has the opportunity to have the most transformative impact on healthcare—and specifically, how the medical industry collects personal data about us and then re-communicates it back to us, the patients,” she remarks. After all, health data is incredibly personal and emotional. “It’s information that quite literally describes us on the most intimate, biological level.” If we can find a way to approach this data in a more holistic way, Giorgia believes we can open new doors for both patients and healthcare providers alike.
My 2020 in Data for the New York Times.
If you’d like to know more, Giorgia will elaborate on her ideas later this month at WDCDMX GNP 2021. You can tune in live online or join us at the stunning Angela Peralta open-air theatre in Mexico City, where we’ll welcome an exciting line-up of talks, performances and panels. For tickets and programme information, visit: whatdesigncando.com/events/wdcdmx2021/
Top image: Design Your Own Life for Mindworks.