Hi there. I’m Duncan, and I’m an information designer. This is my newsletter, which pops up in your life every ten days or so like a hankering for a really good pizza. Unfortunately it is not a pizza - really good or otherwise - so if you want to unsubscribe then you can do so by scrolling to the bottom.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
At the start of the year I implemented a new habit which has been pretty positive for me. It’s a logbook. Every morning, in a physical book, I write down a list of the things I did the previous day (usually looking at my beloved to-do app, Things 3, to help).
Sometimes the list is long, sometimes the list is short. But now I’ve been doing it for four months (what!? a third of the year is already over?) it’s really nice to go back and head off the constant gnawing feeling that I’m accomplishing nothing by looking at a list of things I’ve accomplished.
As well as the list of things I’ve done, I write a few other things in my logbook too. Im a different column, I make a note of every time I’ve done one of the habits I’m trying to cultivate (exercise, being social, being in regular contact with my family, being creative, cleaning, etc), which helps me keep doing them. I also write down the names of books and videogames on the day I finish them (it’s easy to start things, it’s harder to finish them). Finally, I use my logbook to write down the list of things I have the urge to buy, in the way that I mentioned last time.
To keep all this in one place, I use a Leuchturm weekly planner in light blue, which has one page per week and a page facing it that can be used for notes. I’ve adorned the front with some stickers from Webcomic Name and Märka Design. I use the same pen, my beloved Copic Multiliner SP, for consistency each day, and only rarely use colour for highlighting something super-important.
I could have done all this in a digital form, of course, like I’m doing with these notes. But I like the idea that in the future I’ll be able to look back in a physical book and see what I was working on on a given day. For example, I can already see that on the day the first confirmed case of Coronavirus was announced in Sweden, I worked on some visualizations for Project Drawdown, wrote an article for the Minecraft website, drew in my sketchbook, meditated and spoke to my family. The day after, I spent a lot of money on flights for a holiday that is now not going to happen.
Silfa reminded me that it’s been exactly a year since I became a Swedish citizen. It has been a weird year, in many ways. I think I feel a little more distant from my second motherland than I did this time last year. Other than the five-minute daily news bulletin that I watch in Swedish every morning, I’m hardly getting the opportunity to speak the language at all. I could and should probably do something to fix that.
My citizenship came a little late for me to be invited to last year’s public ceremony in the city park on the Swedish national day, so I figured I’d be invited this year instead. But that seems very unlikely to happen now, so perhaps it’ll be 2021 (Gothenburg’s 400th birthday year) when I’ll get to stand on a little stage with all the other new citizens and sing the national anthem.
Despite my slight distance from Sweden, though, I feel a far greater distance to the UK than I did this time last year. Since the last election and the near-annihilation of hope that Brexit may not happen, I’ve stopped paying anywhere near as much attention to the British news. That, combined with the fact that I have no idea when I’ll next revisit the country means that my only contact now really is through my family.
In fact, as I’m currently choosing not to take public transport, and don’t own a car, my physical world has effectively shrunk to walking distance from my apartment. That sounds kinda sad, but actually I’ve been really happy in that smaller world. For example, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the progression of spring, seeing the different plants and animals appearing and disappearing (and identifying them with Seek).
In the non-physical realm, technology has allowed me to continue working as normal, continue entertaining myself mostly as normal, continue speaking to my family more than normal! I recognise that identifies me as being in a very privileged position, but nonetheless, I think about what would it have been like if this had all happened 30 years ago, or even just 20. My experience of it all would have been very, very different. Which makes me excited to the world changing, hopefully for the better, hopefully for more and more people, in the coming 20-30 years.
Inspired by a question from Jane Zhang on the Data Visualization Society Slack, I wrote a blog post about how I define the terms “information design”, “data visualization” and “infographic”.
In it, I talk about how my entire career has really been in information design and that the focus is the only thing that has changed over the years. As far as I’m concerned, writing and particularly editing are absolutely information design jobs, and so is data visualization.
Anyway, if you want to know how I shifted from being a writer to working mostly with data, then this blog post contains your answer. And if you want to know how I see my skills as useful to the world, then it also contains that answer. Finally, a quick reminder that if you’ve got an information design problem, then I can probably help you with it and we should talk ;)
Oof, video editing is a pain, isn’t it? I’ve been trying to work up the enthusiasm to edit together the first Dataplotter video, and it’s tough.
The complexity of my first video is the problem - I think. I went deep with the footage, grabbing both wide-angle and close-up shots of all the different parts of the process. That’s great for having options, but bad for putting together a video in a timely manner.
What’s more, I shot everything in 4K and my computer cannot cope with so much high-resolution footage. I think I’m going to have to re-record in 1080p, with the cuts done live in OBS. More of a pain while shooting, but so much less of a pain while editing.
If any of you do a lot of video editing, I’d love any workflow tips for not ending up in a total mess…
Written a lot today! A first draft script for the first episode of a podcast I’m working on, which I’m pretty pleased with, and a bit of writing about carbon offsets for a commercial client.
I find it really hard to get going with writing, but my “just start” approach from a few weeks back worked well again. I sit there with my research open in one tab and a blank Google Doc with a title written in the other, and slowly the words start coming. A few false starts to just get something on the page no matter how awful, then a sentence I like, then a decent paragraph, then a whole section I’m happy with, until suddenly I’m done.
When I start, I’m never sure how I’ll do it. When I finish, I’m not sure how I’ve done it. It’s all very weird, but it works.
I think I’m about ready to do the secret thing that I want to do to reward you all for being wonderful newsletter subscribers. Here’s the caveat, though - to do it, I’ll need your postal address, which I promise to only use for this one thing and then delete.
If that’s cool, then head over to this google form and fill it out. If not, then just scroll on by and forever wonder what you missed out on.
The deadline to fill it out is the end of May, at which point I’ll lock the form to new submissions. The clock is ticking…
Finally, I’ll leave you this week with a great piece on data art from Nightingale - The Data Painer and the Data Poet, by Guillaume Meigniez. It’s not just a fab read, it’s beautifully illustrated too. Here’s an excerpt:
Data look more like pigments than words in the way they are represented. Each piece of it is rarely discernible from the whole. The bars of a bar chart are drawn just like a painter makes brush strokes on a canvas.
Therefore data artists face a duality in their material. They have to choose how much weight to give to the significance of data. If they decide to ignore it, they get closer to the painter. And if they embrace it and question it, they get closer to the poet. Just like the symbolists, data artists place themselves in-between their freedom of creation and the natural fading of the material.
Read the whole thing here, and I’ll see you again ten days!