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Inside 'Dear Data,' A Year-Long Experiment in Visualizing Daily Life

From New York to London and back, Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec send each other weekly drawings of everyday data.

Information designer Giorgia Lupi and data illustrator Stefanie Posavec may live an ocean apart, but they’re getting to know one another in an analog way: they're sending postcards full of information from their everyday lives as hand-drawn data visualizations. Every week since September 2014, the duo has calculated and codified unique sets of information like the number of complaints they've received, times they've glanced at a clock, or thank yous they've said. Recently, they shared the first eight weeks of their exploration, Dear Data, online, inviting the public inside their data-fied pen-palship. 

Lupi and Posavec first met at the Eyeo festival in Minneapolis, an annual gathering for artists and creative technologists, where Lupi gave a talk about drawing data, and Posavec headed up a workshop on the same topic. Over drinks, they discussed ways they could collaborate, and then continued the conversation over email when Posavec went home to London and Lupi back to Brooklyn. 

They knew they wanted to depict data with a more personal and intimate twist and in an analogue form, so they eventually settled on a snail mail relationship: “We decided that we would have a layout that featured the data drawing on the front and on the back we would have directions on how to read it,” explains Lupi to The Creators Project. They wanted to see how the physicality of postcards, without the protection of envelopes, transformed in the journey to reach the other.

One big challenge? “You can’t undo,” Lupi explains. “It’s so painful when the postcard is coming up nicely, you make a mistake and you have to start from scratch.” But, she adds, it’s a necessary part of slowing down the creation process. The postcard encapsulates the time, effort, and consideration for the recipient.

Although it began as an experiment to learn more about one another, it has helped both artists become more in-tune with their own selves. In calculating minute details daily and weekly, “we are learning to pay attention to things,” explains Lupi. Each postcard becomes a record of the week, a mini "data diary," she adds.

With Dear Data, the duo wants to show that the world of data isn't just limited to statistics experts, and that anyone can draw. Already, Posavec and Lupi have heard their project described with adjectives that are rarely used to describe data art: "heartwarming" and “delicately human.” They hope their experiment will invite more people to be attentive to their own daily data.

Big data and art converge in the first installment of our Reform video series, Data Becomes Art In Immersive Visualizations:

Be sure to follow Dear Data's Twitter for updates! 

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