Data design at DI2011

Ben Fry takes complex data and visualises it in an aesthetically pleasing and easily understandable way.

Ben Fry is a designer that works with data. With a doctorate from the Aesthetics + Computation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, Fry combines the fields of computer science, statistics, graphic design and data visualisation as a way to understand information.

As the principal of Fathom Information Design, a Boston-based design and software consultancy, Fry helps clients understand and express complex data through information graphics, interactive tools, software installation, the web and mobile devices.

Innovation leader GE is one of Fry’s corporate clients where he works to create visualisations that simplify complex data about issues that shape people’s lives, including health and energy usage. Fry has recently been actively developing domestic solutions for efficient energy use.

In 2007 Fry wrote a book, Visualizing Data, which explores and explains the enormous quantities of data that go unused because people can’t visualise the scale or relationships.

Together with Casey Reas of UCLA, Fry developed “Processing”, an open source programming environment for teaching computational design and sketching interactive media software. This programme is used by thousands of students, artists, engineers and scientists. The project also won a Golden Nica award from Prix Ars Electronica in 2005 and was featured in the 2006 Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial.

Fry and Reas are “trying to make it easier for artists, designers and architects to work with code; and to get computer scientists and engineers thinking about art and design concepts”.

When Fry is not visualising data he:

  • Develops personal work that has been shown at the Whitney Biennial, the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
  • Designs information graphics that have illustrated articles for the journal Nature, New York Magazine, The New York Times and Seed.
  • Was the Nierenberg Chair of Design for the Carnegie Mellon School of Design in 2006/2007.  
  • With Reas, published Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists in 2007 and Getting Started with Processing in 2010.

Ben Fry
will be speaking at the 2011 Design Indaba Conference from 23 to 25 February.

Watch the Talk with Ben Fry