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Designing Data for Emotional Experiences

Data can inform, it can drive optimization, but can it have an emotional impact?

Data can inform, it can drive optimization, but can it have an emotional impact? As a designer who works in with architecture, branding, and digital installations, Lauren Gibbons does exactly that, using data to tell human-centered stories on epic canvases. The secret to her success lies the way she extracts the stories from the numbers, focuses on the emotions not the information, and brings some mystery back into a world dominated by sleek data viz interfaces. In this talk, Lauren will highlight how data visualization functions in immersive environments, outlines how she translates numbers into experiences, and shows how technology is secondary to story.

Understanding this approach to data means understanding that Lauren is a designer, not a data scientist. She doesn’t aim to analyze data, or to present it in a way that clearly communicates a complex quantitative topic. Her clients are looking to tell the story of their brand through emotional experiences; to resonate and leave a lasting connection on their viewers. That means eschewing the slick, ubiquitous data viz interfaces common to so many apps and imagining how the presentation of data can transform a space or communicate a brand identity.

To accomplish these goals, Lauren begins by identifying the story. The story, whether shaped by the client or the audience, drives the rest of the process by serving as the guide star for the design process. For the next step involves reviewing the client’s data sets for storylines that serve the overall approach. Does the client have existing feeds that can power the media? Do they have internal data teams with stories they’ve been waiting to tell? Any of these pieces can become the core of an installation. Armed with the client’s data and a clear direction, Lauren works with an interdisciplinary team of architects, creative technologists, and graphic designers to translate the data story into dynamic, space-theming digital installations.

This process has allowed Lauren to push data visualization into new forms and expressions. Environmental data? That can become a colorful digital sculpture. Movies and TV shows? That can be a multi-story-tall dynamic chandelier. All the transactions performed through eBay? That can be an interactive lobby wall.

And this is just the start. New technologies open up new opportunities. As our data visualizations expand across an ever-growing diversity of displays, these emotional experiences will be even more important for standing out from the crowd.

Lauren Gibbons

Lauren Gibbons is a Senior Interaction Designer in ESI’s Creative Technology Department. I specialize in all aspects of user interface design from concept to production, with experience building creative solutions for projects such as The Beacon at PNC Tower and eBay Main Street. With an extensive background in data visualization, I have worked with clients to develop custom data feeds to drive digestible narratives on both interactive and media experiences.

As the lead web developer on multiple websites for non-profits and corporate clients, I have programmed both front-end applications and back-end content management systems. Also an advanced Javascript programmer, I have experience developing animated and video-rich websites, as well as web-based mobile applications for iPhone and Android.

I hold a Master of Fine Arts in Design & Technology from Parsons The New School for Design, where I also worked as a Design Researcher on a project that created interactive data visualizations of stem cell biology.

I am enthusiastic about human-focused interactive design and became interested in the subject of humanitarian design while working at START, an international environmental NGO, which builds capacity for scientific research in Africa and Asia. This is a skill and focus that she applies to work at ESI Design.

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