The Feltron Report (Beautiful Information)

Listening to one of my favorite Podcasts, Radio Lab, I heard an interview about Nicolas Felton, a New York graphic designer who is known for his amazing data and charts. He takes daily routines and converts them into measurements that he uses to create truly exquisite graphs of information. 

The striking thing about his work is a focus on the everyday and how he manages to elevate rather mundane information into art. He quantifies things like meetings with acquaintances or typical daily activities, and then once a year he publishes a yearly report that can only be described as inspiring. Not only is information presented with stunning beauty and clarity, a deeper story is conveyed about living life and how many of the routine things we do, like eating lunch or running into friends, are genuinely integral parts of our lives.

 When I think about Design Workshop's approach of weaving design with measurement and evidence, I cannot help but be motivated by the graphics of Nicolas Felton. His approach challenges traditional notions of what data and information are by organizing and presenting them in compelling and artful ways. What do you think our profession can learn from this approach?

Note: Michael Tunte is a landscape architect and project manager in our Aspen, CO office.


What Story Do You Want to Tell?


Measurement is all around us. We encounter it every day—spanning our personal lives, our community involvement and professional endeavors.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to run a little experiment out of curiosity—to collect examples where I came across instances of measurement, where quantified information was shared to as a part of communicating, conveying progress, making a comparison or telling a success story.


My community garden sends a weekly email itemizing food donations collected from the various plots and distributed to organizations that help people in need, such as homeless transition shelters. On the face of it, this is a list of produce, a quantification of food donated. But it is part of a bigger story of the community banding together to do something for the greater good.


Click to read more ...


Part of a Tribe

The last several years could be looked at as a period of fracturing, retrenchment and confusion. Our profession has suffered greatly, and the prospect of future projects and jobs is still more than unclear. As individuals, we have pulled inward at times to try to ride out this incredible storm. Organizations have gotten smaller, offices have gotten smaller and we have lost important relationships. Our way of being in the day-to-day is not as full as it used to be in terms of interpersonal relationships and volumes of project work. The nature of the conversation seems to be different than before the recession as well – it’s less confident possibly; it’s certainly less sure. At some level, we all assumed that things would get back to normal quickly. Assuming so, without it actually happening, has affected our energy level, maybe even our commitment at times. I know it did for me. But I recently have had a few experiences that have helped strengthen my enthusiasm and commitments.

Click to read more ...


Great Data Visualization Resources

There are so many good (and bad) examples of data visualization out there that I thought I’d share the following sites that have really good collections and are continually updated.

If you’re a visualization geek like me you may already be familiar with some or all of these, but for those who aren’t, hopefully these will inspire you to show your data in new ways:


Here are a few highlights:

This graphic shows the proposed 2012 Federal Budget, with the relative sizes of each circle representing the budget for that category. Click on the "death-taxes" link below for more information on this image.





DW Legacy Design® for the Next Generation

Is our business different today from what it was in 2008?

Sure it is.

Do we long for the days when the phone rang off the hook with more project offers than we could possibly take on?

Of course.

Do we wish that nothing had changed?


In fact, we see that being a smaller, more focused firm has bolstered our ability to be a catalyst for change. Thank goodness the “build anything and everyone will buy it” days of the mid-2000s are behind us. Now developers and cities must build the right thing in order for it to be successful.

As planners and designers, we must assume a leadership role in sustainable development because we are the ones in a position to influence the outcome. We think of the profession as being made up of “first responders” who create lasting built and natural environments. But, what does that mean to us? We have evolved as a learning organization and a thought-driven firm, seeking out complex and challenging projects wherever intellectual interests may lead. Especially now, our goal is to do work that matters, work that makes a difference, work that contributes to the wellbeing of the planet – to do well by doing good.

Impacted by a poor economy – high unemployment, stagnant compensation, decreasing housing values – the market is catching up with the movement toward living more responsibly. People are learning that it’s important to combine the idealistic with the practical and they are searching for ways to live out their ideals within the context of realism. And they are looking to those in the forefront for leadership.

The design profession must forge ahead in this uncertain economic world in which we live and strive to leave legacies for generations to come. What does that mean for you and your firm? How have you forged ahead? What are the specific ways we collectively as a profession can do that?

At Design Workshop, we have re-committed ourselves to four fundamental conditions:
1)  Comprehensiveness of the broadest band of knowledge
2)  Inclusiveness of all necessary disciplines
3)  Transparent decision making and willingness to communicate
4)  Collective measurement of progress

What about you?

Note: Becky Zimmermann is President of Design Workshop.