David Hunter is a multidisciplinary designer and programmer. He creates interactive experiences for spaces and screens and uses data-driven computational design processes. David:” I think there is value in walking as a research activity to directly experience what you are interested in a location”.
Graphic Hunters: I have read that someone has to understand a visualization within seconds, others say visualizations should leave something to explore. What is your opinion on this?
David Hunter: I think it depends on the audience and the context in which they experience it. There is absolutely the need to quickly convey accurate information across a wide range of situations and use cases. For example medical information on patients in an operating theatre, medical research studies, or financial data for making business decisions, no one wants that to be misinterpreted in a moment and someone lose a job or die. But there is also an opportunity for more exploratory visualisations in other contexts, like museums, exhibitions, sports events, and for public engagement on issues. Some people just want to understand through being told, and that is fine, but lots of people like to understand through discovery. Learning through action can also leave a deeper imprint.
What is the first most important question one should ask before starting visualizing the data?
What is it you are trying to say? What is the question? What is the insight? Does the data answer this? Who is it for? What form should it take? It is easy to get carried away and create something with data that perhaps does not reveal anything. Understanding the limitations and appropriate use of a dataset is important, some are straightforward but others can require expertise.
If you could choose one visualization that you can put in a frame and hang in your livingroom, which visualization would you choose and why?
Good question, Minard’s visualisation of Napoleon’s army comes to mind first. It is still powerful and surprisingly fresh looking, it is timeless. But I would probably pick some kind of map or a representation of time, Accept & Proceed’s Light Calendars come to mind.
What is the most exciting aspect of your training?
Getting out into the world! And of course hopefully enjoying turning what we collect into some kind of visualisation. I think there is value in walking as a research activity to directly experience what you are interested in a location and evaluate your ideas and methods, and generate new ones based on reflection. On a day to day basis we move through our environments quite unengaged with our surroundings. So it should be a workshop about observing, learning and creating!
What lessons do you want the participants to take home for the training?
First and foremost thinking creatively about gathering and representing data. But also to appreciate the problems of sensors or methods, difficulty of working with data, and authorship involved in creating visualisations.