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Allison McCann at Malofiej 23

Using weird, complicated and excessive designs to find new ideas

March 26, 2015
Allison McCann at Malofiej 23

The afternoon of the second day of Malofiej 23 kicked-off with Allison McCann, a young talented visual journalist currently working at FiveThirtyEight. She analyzes data, designs and develops graphics, straying from the usual lines and bars to communicate visual information using new and interesting forms. Prior to FiveThirtyEight, she worked on the graphics desk at Bloomberg Businessweek, which was named Design Studio of the Year by ‘Creative Review’ in 2013, and her work was just selected for the ‘Best American Infographics 2015’.

The title of Alison’s presentation at Malofiej speaks for itself. “Against Boring Charts” was a showcase of unconventional charts and graphs that she has been producing over at FiveThirtyEight. She feels that in many websites “stuff is beginning to look the same”, with little or none variation in terms of style and form. So, the idea behind many of the charts she presented is to start with “the weird, complicated and excessive designs to find new ideas”, and then scale back towards clarity.

According to her, there’s a risk of letting data visualization tools dictate our collective style too much, leading to the death of individual style. However, as she also pointed out, you should only start to experiment once you have learned the basic principles of visualization.

Here are some of the FiveThirtyEight charts Alison shared with the audience:

Fairness and Freedom in Party platforms | FiveThirtyEight

Fairness and Freedom in Party platforms | FiveThirtyEight
Fairness and Freedom in Party platforms | FiveThirtyEight

What Makes Nigel Richards The Best Scrabble Player On Earth | FiveThirtyEight

What Makes Nigel Richards The Best Scrabble Player On Earth | FiveThirtyEight
What Makes Nigel Richards The Best Scrabble Player On Earth | FiveThirtyEight

The Most Conservative And Most Liberal Elite Law Schools | FiveThirtyEight

The Most Conservative And Most Liberal Elite Law Schools | FiveThirtyEight
The Most Conservative And Most Liberal Elite Law Schools | FiveThirtyEight

The leads and deficits held by 2014 QBs | FiveThirtyEight

The leads and deficits held by 2014 QBs
The leads and deficits held by 2014 QBs

Baby’s First Profanity | FiveThirtyEight

Baby’s First Profanity | FiveThirtyEight
Baby’s First Profanity | FiveThirtyEight

2015 March Madness Predictions | FiveThirtyEight

2015 March Madness Predictions | FiveThirtyEight
2015 March Madness Predictions | FiveThirtyEight

As for references and inspiration, Allison mentioned works from Nigel Holmes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Grantland and The New York Times, but most importantly, Jacques Bertin‘s famous book ‘The Semiology of Graphics’, and the key question all designers should ask themselves before starting a project: “Should a graphic be used? (On a side note, also read this post by Enrico Bertinni about the hidden legacy of Bertin and “The Semiology of Graphics”).

Diamonds Were a Girl’s Best Friend | Nigel Holmes | TIME

Diamonds Were a Girl’s Best Friend | Nigel Holmes in “A Gem That Lost Its Luster,” Time 120, no. 9 (August 30, 1982)

The U.S. Debt Vortex | Bloomberg Businessweek

The US Debt Vortex | Bloomberg Businessweek
The US Debt Vortex | Bloomberg Businessweek

Damien Hirst’s Spot Prices | The New York Times

Damien Hirst’s Spot Prices | The New York TImes
Damien Hirst’s Spot Prices | The New York TImes

Anthony Davis Rookie season | Grantland

Anthony Davis Rookie season | Grantland
Anthony Davis Rookie season | Grantland

Follow Allison’s updates on Twitter (@atmccann), and @538viz for the work she’s doing over at FiveThirtyEight. And check out her website for a more comprehensive look at her portfolio.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.

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