Dear Data
by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec

Princeton Architectural Press, 2016. ISBN 978-1-616-89532-7.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 12/17/2016

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life

Ever since they were young, Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec have been fascinated with collecting and organizing information. Now, as adults they have published the results of a year of collecting data. Each week's data collecting was about what happened that week, based on a theme. Giorgia Lupi is an Italian woman living in New York. Stephanie Posavec is an American woman living in London. They are visual designers who love drawing and when they bumped into each other at an arts festival they realized how similar their lives were.

The book contains the fifty-two post cards Posavec sent to Lupi and vice versa. Their shared routine for a year was to observe, count, draw, explain. On the front of each postcard is a representation of the weekly data and on the other side, keys to the drawings, that is, how to decipher the picture. The themes include: How often do we say "thank you" to the people we meet (and the people we love)? How often do we complain, what do we rant about, and how many of our complaints are unnecessary? In Week 10, they tracked their to-do lists.

Each postcard also has an explanation below it, for readers of the book. The cards themselves are fascinating to decipher and visually unique. The drawings from the postcards are colourful and especially fun when enlarged on two pages.

A two-page spread illustrates the data we may collect: how often I've exercised this week; the number of countries I've traveled to; the number of houses I've lived in.

During a week of "interesting things," Lupi cut apart an issue of the New Yorker to create a collage.

The artists say you can "see the story of a life lived, even in the most uncommon types of data tracking, if you add the right details to your gathering." This was after a week of tracking the doors they passed through.

Week 39 was a week of beauty when Lupi and Posavec stopped to look and record the beauty all around them.

They realized that collecting data is a form of meditation. "Counting is getting back to the here and now immediately," the authors say.

Posavec painted a delightful portrait of herself with data which consists of numerous shapes and symbols and lots of colour.

With all the postcards exchanged, only one went missing and Posavec had to redraw her week of the organization of data.

Some tips for collecting data are included at the end of the book, complete with charming illustrations. The two artists also designed the book which is a visual feast, inspiring and innovative.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Giorgia Lupi is an information designer and co-founder and design director at Accurat, a data-driven research, design and innovation firm based in Milan and New York. Visit her website.

Stefanie Posavec is a data designer whose work focuses on non-traditional representations of data derived from language, literature or scientific topics. In 2013, she was Facebook's first data-artist-in-residence at their Menlo Park campus. Visit her website.

The original set of the postcards has been acquired as part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

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