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As an avid infosthetics subscriber, you definitely should be the proud owner of the book "Data Flow". Why? Well, the book is (sometimes uncomfortably...) closely related to most of the content that is featured here on this website. In addition, it also adds some thick, glossy paper and an impressive high-definition image resolution that makes any visualization enthusiast drool.

Based on the success of the first book, the publisher will very soon be releasing the book's successor, aptly titled "Data Flow 2". In fact, according to the latest information, the official release is expected any day now.

You might wonder: How does the book look like inside? What is the difference between the two books? Would Tufte like it? And how did the editors decide which project to accept, and which one not?

If you really want to know these things and more, you can check out a sneak preview of the book's content, and read an interview with Sven Ehmann, one of the 4 editors, here after the break.


1. Why a Data Flow "II" book?

The first Data Flow book started out of a long-term interest in data visualization shared between Nicolas Bourquin, Ferdi van Heerden and myself. Our research began a good while ago, and it went on even further once the first book was finished since we kept finding interesting and inspirational projects in both quantity and quality. We felt that a second book would be appropriate and appreciated by those who liked and bought the first one.
The reason we kept the title is simple. We continued telling the story of Data Flow and with the first book being successful, that businesswise it made perfect sense to connect the first and the second Data Flow books with one another.


2. What are the differences with the first Data Flow book? What did you learn from the first book? And how did the first book influence the second one?

The key to what we learned from the first book was that there is vast interest in the topic way beyond those who already work in the field of data visualization. A large number of creatives are exploring and experimenting with the idea of visualization, which is why we kept some of the structure, but we also extended further to include more abstract and illustrative projects. The intention is really to inspire new ways of creating information experiences.

3. What was the process behind deciding on what projects to include in the book?
We usually do our research without a book structure in mind. Then we start tagging and grouping content and from there develop the structure. In the case of Data Flow 2, we did actually start with the existing structure from the first book (Datablocks, Dataspheres, etc), but soon realized that we didn't have too many exceptional new projects in a category like Datanet - which got smaller - while some of the other projects we wanted to include needed a new chapter like Dataesthetics. The main criteria was to find new ways of working with data and information and the other was to find projects that relate to data that would be more inspirational to the reader. That is how all the spatial installation projects came to be included.
Project selection and deciding upon the structure was discussed in several steps between the editors. Once this main structure came in place, we started building a storyline within each chapter e.g. from clear and simple to more complex and abstract. In the end a book needs to work in a linear way as well as for browsing through.


4. One of the contested features of the first book was its radical typography. Was there any discussion to change this for the second edition?

We knew from the start that Data Flow 2 would have its own typography, but we tried to develop it from the basis of what Data Flow had established.

5. It seems that most examples in the Data Flow books are quite "creative" or "artistic" or "aesthetic" (lets not agree on the terminology here). Was this a conscious decision? Did you ever consider examples in visualization research, visualization as used in business, or other more "real-world" examples?
It is a conscious decision indeed. We are aware of the more technical and scientific forms of visualization, but our aim is more to challenge and inspire than to document and explain. We even included projects that are not meant to be data visualization at all when we felt they could have a new meaning in the eyes and minds of our audience.


6. What was the reasoning behind releasing editions in different languages? If culture seemed to be an important factor in terms of sales, did you also observe cultural or geographical differences in the projects?

When making decisions about language editions two aspects are considered, a) the amount and relevance of texts within the publication, and b) the size of the markets to sell the book to. So far, we have produced and sold the majority of our books in English. Some of our books do not feature large volumes of texts and therefore they don't need translations, but others do. For example with Data Flow 2, we feel that the explanations are crucial to understanding the content, and with growing Spanish-speaking markets for, it now starts to make commercial sense to produce language editions.
I don't think we see radical differences between projects from different cultures / regions in Data Flow 2, beyond the obvious aesthetical differences you would also see in illustration, typography, etc.

7. What is the future of the concepts behind the projects shown in Data Flow?
I think the type of projects featured in Data Flow will gain more and more relevance. With the growing amount of data available on each and every aspect of the world, the development of tools and visual languages becomes very important and a complex task for designers. Whether we are talking about location-based information on next generation smart phones, personal medical data, visualizing background information on complex news stories or scientific experiments in kid's museums, the elements of data visualization and visual storytelling are key for creating information experiences.


8. Do you think Tufte likes the Data Flow books?

I assume he would be critical about some of the projects in the book in terms of the language they use to communicate, but I hope he would also appreciate the effort made by contributors and editors in trying to develop new ways of seeing, understanding and articulating information.

9. Who should NOT read Data Flow II?
Weird Al Yankovic


10. Will there be a Data Flow III?

I don't know yet--but the field of data visualization, infographics, visual storytelling, etc is certainly lively and interesting enough to be looked at in the future.



I was also thinking along the lines of Shawn with "Data Flows" but that would have been better suited for "Data Flow 2", which has already been published.

If the third book is likely to be the last how about "Data Flown" or "The data has flown".

Or maybe it should just be "Data Flow 3" to follow what has been established with "Data Flow 2"

Wed 24 Mar 2010 at 1:51 PM
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