NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 34


From Data to Information to Knowledge Visualization

Emily Verba Fischer

As a design educator who teaches information visualization, I urge my students to push past the trends and style patterns they inhale on design inspiration websites.
Take risks, and let the true content and message (in combination with a unique aesthetic point of view) drive the form-making.
Santiago Ortiz is a stellar example of a designer doing exactly this. A trained mathematician, he knew from an early age that he wanted to combine math with art of some kind. Ortiz leads Moebio Labs, a team of data scientists, developers, and designers based in New York City and Buenos Aires. Using giant sets of data, Moebio creates unconventional, aesthetically avantgarde information visualizations.
Information visualization is the creation and study of the visual representation of data. This facet of contemporary design practice is of extreme importance in our age of information overload. The main function of visualization is to simplify unbiased, complex content for ease of understanding by the masses (in an aesthetically pleasing manner).
Information visualization may be static, moving, or interactive in nature. Ortiz and his team at Moebio focus on interactive visualization, and are skilled at making complicated, existing pools of data accessible through this interactivity. One example is “Histomap Revisted.” The “Histomap” is a static visualization of 4000 years of history and was created in 1931 by John B. Sparks. Ortiz has created a new way to navigate this unwieldy load of information. When explored digitally, this document links to contextual Wikipedia articles.
The Moebio website includes a project entitled “ Datavis Resource Network”. This is a comprehensive amalgamation of rich resources and links to informa tion visualization blogs, studios, designers, and tools. This visualization makes it possible to compare these resources; to view them in context with one another. I applaud Ortiz for including this project, as it demonstrates his dedication to the field of information visualization at large. He is not only out to promote his own fascinating work, but to situate it within the work of his contemporaries. This is the kind of generosity which is surely appreciated by design educators and his peers in the field of information visualization. Additionally, in his interactive application, “Life, the Universe and Everything,” Ortiz aims to assist the user with navigating his or her own personal selection of visualization projects from all over the Internet. The projects are chosen based on “ideas, concepts and emotions… things that matter.” When I click on “Music”, I am immediately taken to a moving visualization of Debussy’s “Clair de lune” piano solo, made by Music Animation Machine.

Ortiz is an aspirational figure in design today because he places supreme importance on experimentation. In 2012, he spent six months focused entirely on personal research. With this dedicated time, he was able to identify and solidify his main interests and goals for future client work. Ortiz has adapted to shifting technology, but has also built his v ery own to ols for visualization. These include tools for 3D and network engines that create, modify, and visualize networks. In addition to partnering with clients who are open to these interactive ways of exploring data and information, Ortiz and his team at Moebio are constantly experimenting on the side.
In his “Personal Knowledge Database,” Ortiz utilizes strange and surprising kinetic forms. An ever-morphing and distorting sphere visualizes and groups several Internet references he consistently collects. In this easily explorable visualization, more than 700 projects, articles and images are stored. In “Views of the Sky #2,” data dealing with the position and brightness of stars is articulated in a morphing visualization controlled by mouse movement. Users may drag the mouse to rotate the image, and use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out of the visualization . In the corresponding visualization “Views of the Sky #1,” users are confronted with a different iteration of this magnitude of data. 
Santiago Ortiz has recognized that business intelligence and the analytical market are rapidly changing; clients need more than stale pie charts and superficial bar graphs. From raw data, Ortiz and his team transform numbers and statistics into information in graphic form, which ultimately disseminates knowledge in an engaging manner. He has described the results as “Knowledge Visualization” — what an absolutely appropriate term for the work itself, as well as the true intention of the work!

Emily Verba Fischer

(b. 1982) is an Ohio native who returned to the Midwest after receiving her master's degree from the Basel School of Design. Prior to her studies in Switzerland, she lived and practiced design for a variety of corporate and cultural clients in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and the French Alps. Through these international experiences, she developed a teaching approach that emphasizes the concept of global citizenry in addition to design acuity. She believes that maximizing understanding of other cultures through interpersonal connection and the shared language of design can create a more empathic world for all. Emily is currently an Assistant Professor at the Myron E. Ullman, Jr. School of Design in the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). She frequently travels abroad to share her research and pedagogical activities. Her work has been featured in exhibitions and publications nationally and internationally.

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