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Q&A with Manuel Lima

Information Visualization researcher, founder of VisualComplexity

When did you start learning data visualization?

My interest for InfoVis started in my first graduate year at Parsons School of Design while witnessing a talk by Christopher Kirwan, who later became my teacher and thesis instructor in the MFADT program at Parsons. In this inspiring lecture, Kirwan showed us a version of the Understanding Spectrum diagram with its four interconnected circles. Data originates information, which leads to knowledge and ultimately to wisdom. This concept influenced my vision and made me reflect on the responsibly I had, as a designer, to contribute to this spectrum. From that point on, InfoVis became a major subject of interest and awareness.

Is it the most important topic in conferences for you as of today?

That's quite hard to say, since there are many important issues to tackle in disparate societies across the world. However, with the growing influx of copious amounts of data on every topic you can think of, finding meaningful patterns has never been so important. Our ability to generate and acquire data has by far outpaced our ability to make sense of that data. Meaningful information is not a given fact, and particularly now, when our cultural artifacts are being measured in gigabytes and terabytes, organizing, sorting and displaying information in an efficient way is a crucial measure for knowledge and ultimately wisdom. This is where information visualization undertakes an important mission.

Your favorite software using for data visualization

D3.js and Processing have been greatest additions to a data visualizer's toolbox, but more common tools like Illustrator and Excel are equally relevant at times.

3 'must read' books that you recommend for designer who recently discovered data visualization

Where does your work inspiration come from?

From being curious and attentive at the world around me.

Photo: Manuel Lima