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This post was written by Jan Willem Tulp, who recently won the Eyeo Data Visualization Challenge. Even more, Jan Willem recently took the courageous decision to give up his regular day job in order to start his own data visualization practice.

Day 1 of Eyeo Festival has kicked off with some tremendous sessions, labs, tours, workshops and panel discussions with the most bright and creative minds on of this time. It is sometimes hard to choose between so many high quality sessions, but luckily most speakers have multiple speaking engagements.

After a short welcome speech, the day was kicked of by the creators of Processing: Ben Fry and Casey Reas. They gave a general overview of Processing from the early days (with some great retro photos) and the new Javascript mode, to examples of third party libraries that have made Processing into a very powerful ecosystem today.

Next up was Moritz Stefaner who showed 4 of his numerous great projects: the Better Life Index, Map your Moves, Revisit, and Notabilia. He also provided some good final thoughts and examples on re-using visualizations. For instance, a great remark he made on visualization: "Don't invent, discover!".

After Moritz, I attended the session by Amanda Cox, graphics editor at the New York Times. She demonstrated many of the great pieces of work she and her team have created, and made some valid statements with regards to data visualization. For instance: you do not always have to use a map if the data is geographical, other ways may sometimes be better to overcome common mapping issues. Or: the most important thing one can accomplish is simply to add an annotation layer, which guides the attention of the viewer (a great example of an annotation layer is How Mariano Rivera Dominates Hitters). I also thought it was comfortable to see that both Moritz as Amanda and her team use a very exploratory and interactive approach to create the most effective visualization.

A panel discussion with Golan Levin, Zach Lieberman and Ben Ceverny was all about the question: 'WHY?'. And the most remarkable thing that came back was the link with systems theory and complex systems. Like Ben said: "it's not about technology, it's about systems and understanding complexity".

For me, next up was a visit to the University of Minnesota Visualization Lab. Students showed some of their visualization projects, mostly for medical purposes. The image above shows one of those projects, where a user (a doctor) is able to navigate the human body in 3D using head tracking and a touch interface. Projects also included an interactive touch-screen flow visualization, posture simulation visualization and more.

In the evening, there were 2 more sessions: Natalie Jeremijenko showed some very inspiring and innovative projects from her Environmental Health Clinic, where people can find support if they have any environmental problem. I think she is doing a good job: her project How Stuff Is Made is about making us more aware of our stuff, and the fact that only 1 person in the room could answer the question "does any of you have an item with him or her and can explain how it's made" proves the point that people can indeed be made more aware.

Final session of the day was by Golan Levin who showed some of his amazing work, like Graffiti Markup Language, Double Taker, and one of my favorites: Mesa di Voce.

All in all this was a fantastic day, so much inspiration and great people to meet. I cannot wait for day two!

Image at top taken by Ultra-lab.