“I’m not fighting a war against bar charts and pie charts,” says Giorgia Lupi, with a chuckle. “But maybe in 20 years, we’ll all be able to read new kinds of data visualisations in the same way we read bar charts and maps today.” In many ways, this has been the great crusade of Giorgia’s career to date: making often-impenetrable data both accessible and relatable.
The information designer is joining Pentagram as a partner of its New York office and in so doing becomes the first new partner since Natasha Jen and Emily Oberman were brought onboard in 2012. The move also represents a further effort on the part of the design firm to expand beyond traditional graphic design.
When we meet, Giorgia is sitting in a light-filled room at Pentagram’s office in Midtown New York – and looking eager to get started. “It’s a really interesting time to be working at the intersection of data, design and branding,” she says, “because there’s so much potential for shaping the conversation between brands and customers through design, when it comes to data.”
In recent years, Giorgia has become synonymous with her information design firm, Accurat, which she co-founded in 2011. Since then she has worked on visually driven data projects for a variety of companies, including IBM, MoMA, Google, TED and Starbucks.
But the roots of Giorgia’s practice go way further back, to her first degree, which was in architecture. “Throughout my studies, I was interested in urban mapping, which is already information mapping but most often it’s tied to geography,” she explains. “Being able to understand and prove that the level of abstraction that is used in a mapping project can be done in any type of reality – this really opened my eyes to the fact that we can find data everywhere and anywhere and that it can be a powerful lens to abstract our world and communicate it.”
The designer formalised this approach when she started a collaboration with a newspaper in her native Italy, Corriere della Sera. She created a series of infographic-style data visualisations for the broadsheet, but they looked at topics not normally explored in such a format – a comparison of the careers of composers Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, for instance, or an in-depth study of the ages and graduation grades of Nobel laureates.
Arguably the project that best showcases her approach to data, however, is Dear Data, a collection of postcards containing data recorded from the everyday lives of Giorgia and the London-based designer Stefanie Posavec. This came at a time, when Accurat was doing really well in New York. “I needed to find a way to get back to making, because I was really directing more than designing,” Giorgia recalls. “I also wanted to have a vision that was more than creating nice design. This completely analogue data from my life gave me a sense of what I then started to call data humanism.”
This philosophy views data as a communication tool, but “the focus is always human beings”, says Giorgia. And it’s not just a novel experiment – in fact it’s an essential step in a world that’s becoming increasingly driven by data and data-driven companies. “Today we’re producing way more data than ever, and we will go on creating way beyond expectations,” she says. “As designers, we need to create new languages and new visual models that are able to communicate the complexity of these stories. And we will probably need to educate and teach the reader’s eye to be familiar with novel types of visualisations.” No doubt she’ll continue this effort now, as part of Pentagram.