Dear Data documents a year of correspondence between two information designers – Giorgia Lupi, an Italian living in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, an American living in London. Every week for one year, the two women collected data about their lives then created hand-drawn infographics on postcards to send to one another. The book combines every data visualisation Giorgia and Stefanie drew, alongside their thoughts about the process and what they learnt along the way.
I first heard about Dear Data when I attended a workshop organised by Stefanie and data researcher Miriam Quick at the V&A – Data Talismans. Over two days, they taught us to create meaningful jewellery using data sets made up of memories, significant dates, and other personal data.
I work in digital marketing so I’m no stranger to data, or data visualisation. However, it’s always felt somewhat “cold”. Stefanie and Miriam’s analogue approach really appealed to me as it made me see another side to data, one that was more creative and evocative. When Stefanie mentioned the Dear Data project that she worked on with Giorgia Lupi, I made a note to find out more.
“We’ve always conceived Dear Data as a ‘personal documentary’ rather than a quantified-self project which is a subtle – but important – distinction. Instead of using data just to become more efficient, we argue we can use data to become more humane and to connect with ourselves and others at a deeper level.”
After only having met twice in person, Stefanie and Giorgia decided to learn more about each other by measuring certain aspects of their lives, then send the visualised information across the Atlantic.
“Eventually, the postcard arrived at the other person’s address with all the scuff marks of its journey over the ocean: a type of ‘slow data’ transmission.”
The data Stefanie and Giorgia collected is many and varied – from the number and types of doors they passed through, to how many times they laughed during the week. Although both decided on the same topic each week, their interpretations and visualisations differ. This adds another layer of meaning to each postcard, and reveals more about its creator.
Dear Data is a great book to dip into. Although you can review each postcard in order, I’ve found it can be exciting to turn to a random page and see what Stefanie and Giorgia were recording that week. Interspersed throughout are comments from the two information designers, adding extra insight about their thoughts and feelings.
Watch the YouTube video below to find out more about the project or visit the Dear Data website. Feeling inspired to start your own data documentary? You can now get a Dear Data Postcard Kit for you and a friend, complete with twenty ready-to-make postcards. Happy drawing!
Dear Data is available to buy from Amazon.