Less is More: My Design workshop with David McCandless

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a class held by David McCandles. Some of you in the data visualisation field will know him as the author of Information is Beautiful and Knowledge is Beautiful. Two books that I frequently return to when looking for inspiration in my day to day being a designer.

A fantastic visual piece of work by David McCandless – A mapped out view of our own night sky.

Throughout the class, we broke down the whole process of an infographic. From the early beginnings to the final output wherein he discussed new approaches on how to view a set of data. 

Habit can sometimes be the enemy of innovation. I’ve felt that in my time working as a designer I’ve certainly started forming a dangerous habit or two with the way I produce work given and briefed to me. Being able to take a step back and look at your work from a new perspective provides a refreshing take on the work you do. This also evokes the chance for new creative avenues.

Kaizen is all about day-to-day improvement. How can you build upon what you can already do? David has given me that answer by simply taking me back through the entire process to remind myself of how I do work. 

Below are many different examples of the way data can be visualised. With each graph comes the opportunity to play the data to their own strengths. For example, a Bar Graph is commonly used to show a comparable amount of a figure. However, by using a Tree Map we are able to present the data compacted together at a more impactful scale due to the way in which the graph is laid out.

A lot of David’s advice revolves around the consideration of your work as a designer. What story do you want to tell? What data do you want to highlight? As you can see there is a huge variety of ways to highlight data:

The workshop inspired me to return to building the data vis process from start to finish in an effort to gain a better understanding on how I can improve my design and taper it to fit the data/ narrative I’m trying to tell more successfully.

We live in a world where news travels fast. Anything worth talking about needs to be tweaked and edited to the point in which it’s easily digestible.

In the media industry, designers need to be good at communicating the message as quickly and successfully as possible.

This point was echoed once again in David’s talk where he expressed the practice of taking away as much text as you can and improving upon the colour and layout with graphs to make them look more unique.

Ultimately though, his mantra with his approach to any work is: less is more. Design is removing the obvious and unnecessary whilst retaining the meaningful.

As I remember his advice myself I will closely be following David as an example of innovative design and someone that I can learn from and build my own work on. 

If you’d like to take a wider look at what David and his team have been up to you can find it here.

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