This week the London Transport Museum hosted a half day workshop – Workshops are Beautiful – by the popular information-designer and data anorak David McCandless. Touted as “a mix of lecture & hands-on exercises with plenty of discussion”, this 4-hour workshop stayed true to its premise.
I wondered how much I could really learn in half a day, especially as I’m a complete novice in this area and a sufferer of mathematical anxiety. Despite years of steady hype about this area of design, I’ve not really been tempted to learn how to do it until now.
McCandless took us through some of his most iconic projects and why he made them, like Left vs Right, a topical visualisation on the ideological differences between a left- and right-wing U.S. government. But the best part of the day was collaborating with the other delegates – first on concepts and the goal we have for the piece – then on the beginnings of the visualisation style itself.
“Something I wanted to mention: visualisation is hard. I’ve written books, created software, directed films in my career, but visualisation is by far the most challenging discipline I’ve ever engaged with. It’s something about the precision needed at every level, I think. Concept, data, story, design, style – all are precision arts. In visualisation, they’re stacked one on top of the other. If one sags or slips, the entire edifice can collapse.” David McCandless
We had an opportunity to put our concepts up on the big screen for critique, which although quite daunting, was a great experience. McCandless was very encouraging, and I got the sense he just loves seeing and hearing new and whacky ideas come to life.
Overall, it was a good workshop and has inspired me to do more in this area of design, starting with an infographic about my cat Izzy (below). Do sign up if you get the opportunity.