Live Blog: Ben Fry

Ben Fry is principal of Fathom, a design and software consultancy located in Boston. He received his doctoral degree at the MIT Media Laboratory, where his research focused on combining computer science, statistics, graphic design and data visualization as a means for understanding information.

2:36:15 pm

Fry finishes with a fun research project he did, where he asked all Nobel Laureates whether they have cats or dogs. One asked him – “don’t you have anything better to do?”

2:34:05 pm

At a college in the USA, Fry took a sample of a fence that was always being painted and re-painted with advertising by the students. The layers of paint – and one layer of wax from a 9/11 candlight vigil – reveal the history and stories of the college.

2:27:43 pm

Fry took the various editions of Darwin’s Origin of the Species and used colours to visually show the changes to the work. Each colour represented an edition, and Fry used these to show where Darwin added or removed text and how much – a creative “track changes”. Experience it here.

2:20:32 pm Fry illustrates how science and art can meet and influence each other. They do not need to be two completely separate disciplines.

2:14:51 pm

Fry: “We’re trying to get more designers thinking about programming and more programmers thinking about design.”

2:13:06 pm

Aesthetics and function seem to be adversaries, but Fry says this doesn’t have to be the case. He designed a program for a scientist and she said “it’s too pretty”.

2:10:57 pm

It’s rare to come across a genetic engineer / designer. Creatives getting excited about statistics just goes to show how engaging Fry is.

2:07:56 pm

Ben’s background was in genetic research, particularly understanding the human genome. But how do you look at the 3 billion letters that form the human genome? Fry used “genomic cartography” to display the letters.

2:04:41 pm

Fry: “Sometimes data is just fun to plot out and see what it looks like.”

Fry created a map of the USA that showed every single road traversing the continent as grey lines. The dark parts of the map that contain no roads also reflect the topography – mountains and lakes – of the country.

2:01:16 pm

Fry created interactive graphs that showed population growth of various countries in a way that shows us the information, rather than tells us.

1:58:46 pm

Time for a different kind of design at the Indaba – computational information. Ben Fry asked himself: “As a designer, how can I visualise large amounts of information and turn it into something engaging?"

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