Finding beauty in a chaotic world

Have you ever stopped to think how much data we create in a single day? But where does it all come from? Quite simply, data is the new oil lubricating the digital economy and unpinning our lives. But there’s a problem. The world is moving faster. Innovations continue at pace and put significant pressure on us all to adapt to a high level of ‘chaos’. It can often be confusing and daunting. However, visual thinking may be the answer in creating some order.

75% of our sensory neurons are visual neurons”

The concept of using pictures and graphs to understand data has been around for centuries: maps are certainly one of the oldest ways to visualise our environment, and over time new techniques have been added for example, the pie chart came about in 1801. Today however, technology has created enormous datasets of the like we haven’t ever known. This has put greater pressure visualizing this information, but the results can often be startlingly beautiful.

But “beautiful” is a highly subjective word. In Japanese culture they believe in a mindful approach to life and they often find beauty in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. They also believe beauty can be found in the mundane and simple. 

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This image is an example of an “Ensō”, the word for circle in Japanese.  At first glance it may appear to be nothing more than a mis-shaped circle but there is much more if we look deeper.  Usually a person draws an Ensō in one fluid expressive stroke – it is not easy to do. If we look more closely it’s possible to read some of the character of its creator and have a sense of the passage of time. 

An Ensō can show us many things if we take the time to look: initially we might see hesitancy or strength and elegance, but is the circle closed or open? Do we see confidence, enlightenment? The universe or the void? 

Borrowing this concept and relating it to data, we believe that visualisation is about finding form and beauty in the imperfect. And when we start seeing the world with that perspective, we begin to create something truly beautiful with data. Over the coming months and years we’ll keep our eye on any new developments in data visualisation and write about any exciting exhibitions we find which inhabit the sweet spot between data and art. 

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