Giorgia Lupi is an information designer and researcher. She is the co-founder and design director at Accurat, an information design company based in Milan and New York. She obtained the PhD cum meritum in 2014 with a thesis titled “Visualizing the User Generated cities – Exploring the potentiality of emergent geo-social media applications as a novel source of urban knowledge”. She has presented at several conferences and her work has been featured in different magazines such as the New York Times, Corriere della Sera, FastCompany and many more. She co-authored the book “Visualizing the data-city” Edited by Springer, 2014 and her work won numerous important awards, with the Gold Medal for data journalism at O’Reilly Strata being one of them.
My Definition Of Success | I picture success as the feeling that I am doing the most I can do on my work in the field that ‘passionates’ me, and that this work is making a meaningful contribution and an impact on the world, in a way.
Success, to me, can be described as doing what you are passionate about and getting significantly appreciated for it in the long term, but also feeling like you worked hard at the end of each day, being pleased in how you spent your time. And all of this goes definitely beyond money and power.
Lately, I also came to realize that my idea of “success” depends not only on the very goals you are trying to achieve, but also on the person or group of people you’re collaborating with to do it.
When I look back at the projects we’ve worked on, the ones that I would describe as more successful are the ones where we experimented the most and ventured out of our comfort zone indeed, but also the ones where great team-collaborations happened.
I also think that our personal idea of success needs to be redefined and redesigned over time: and this is not only exciting but necessary, if we want to really innovate and make a difference.
I Am Driven By | I feel very motivated by the idea to continuously grow, improve and learn new things over time; and by the feeling that I can potentially re-invent myself (my job and my beliefs) whenever I feel the urge to do it.
But more practically and more related to the field I am working in, I simply love making beautiful things: seeing aesthetically pleasant compositions with data taking shape; inventing new visual ways to representing information; and seeing that this novelty sparks interest, awakens curiosity and leads to insights and understanding.
My Key Talents | I am magnetically drawn to abstract images and abstract representations, they all inspires me immensely.
I figured out that my aesthetic research for data-visualization (which I take great pleasure from and which helps me renew and refresh my style), 100% deals with this obsession that I have for:
- daily looking at tons of images I like,
- carefully and maniacally collecting and organizing them,
- asking myself what is that I like of them,
- and re-drawing these features to make them mine, to being able to replicate that sort of “digested beauty” in compositions with data.
The very act of looking at images I like and replicating them on paper for me means primarily understanding what my mind sees in them.
Also, drawing for me is an obsession: I always carry with me pens, pencils and paper in any situations.
I’m not usually able to perfectly get and define what I’m thinking, or what pops up in my mind about a design project; I usually say that I cannot think about a project without a pen and some paper: the only way I can evaluate my ideas or intuitions is by seeing them coming to life on paper, I know that drawing is my way to understand I had an idea in the first place.
Besides, I take a really incredible pleasure in drawing, in tracing lines on paper and seeing abstract shapes come alive and I’ve came to realize that this practice really gives shape to my inner thoughts, and influenced my visual design production consistently over years.
What I would suggest to everybody then, is trying to follow any innate attitudes or compulsive passions of yours the most possible, without worrying too much about the opinion of the rest of the world.
I don’ t have any former artistic background and I’ve never taken a drawing class, for example, but drawing takes a major part in my design process and approach: and I do it simply because it makes me feel comfortable and rewarded already.
So, I’d say: do what you like doing because it makes you feel good, and do that until you feel successful, not the other way around, try to find out what kind of work you love doing, do it – do it – do it all the time, be persistent, and don’t care what the world thinks, if you love the process anyway. And have fun.
Characteristics of Success | I indeed have a quite rich and sound set of obsessions and routines that might be influencing the way I work and I think.
As an example, I get bored at the speed of light, I need to feel “productive” all the time, (believe me I cannot even watch a movie without doing something else at the same time).
But moreover, I am never 100% satisfied about what I am doing or were I am going, nothing seems really enough and I am constantly struggling to get “more”, to raise the bar and to open new and unexpected possibilities for my life and career.
I think that, if taken together, all of the above characteristics help me staying curious and hungry, and having a million of open eyes and ears in my head continuously asking myself and the world around “what is going to be next for me”?
Lessons I’ve Learnt | I learned not to wait. If I want to do something or achieve something, I start immediately. I probably won’t achieve the results I have in mind immediately, but I am sure everything I actively do instead of pausing-waiting-and thinking too much is the only way I can work.
I learned to change my mind on a regular basis, to stick with my ideas and beliefs as long as they feel just right, but as soon as something doesn’t add up or perfectly click I find ways to change my thoughts, and paths.
I learned to work hard, evening, weekends, during vacations, and to put all of the passion and love I have in life on what I do every day, because this is my life.
I learned to embrace uncomfortable paths and to venture out of the things I know how to do and I do easily, challenging myself and the people I am working with and for.
I am starting to learn how not to be scared by failures. I’m still working on it though.
Performing At My Peak | I want to start this answer with a quote by Massimo Vignelli: “One of the great advantages of being so concentrated on your work is that it is all there is. Everything I do comes into this and enriches me. Everything, even every book I read, enriches me.”
This resonates with my mind a lot. The thing that fulfils me the most in life, is crafting ideas and building tangible outputs whether they are a drawing, a data-visualisation, a song or a choreography (because I have these two other passions of mine for music composition and contemporary dance). As I see it, I am always “designing” something, if by design we mean the act of conjuring inspiration into something that didn’t exist before or something that becomes tangible for people that are not in my head. Thus I see my whole life experience as raw material that everyday can fill my inspiration, my curiosity and my possibility to dream of and invent new things; and that itself opens possibilities to improve every day.
I am also very lucky because I don’t work as an individual professional, but within a team of very brilliant and talented people, and we learn from each other’s every day.
Resources I Use | In the last year I took the chance of a few public talks and articles to try to frame my thoughts around my inspiration process, that mainly relies on the idea of getting clues and fascinations from various fields, (and not necessarily form already existent data visualizations, which is the very field I am working in).
And this, not only for amusement, but also as a necessary practice for designers: it is very important to keep a curious and critical eye on everything that strikes your attention, and to understand why it did, as a constant resource for inspiration, for transferring what we like / visually speaking / into our visual taste.
Looking for clues in unusual contexts can definitely be described as an attempt to discover and dissect the aesthetic qualities of all the things that we naturally like, in order to be able to abstract them and introduce them as core principles and guidelines in building visual compositions. I ask myself the questions: “What is that I like of what I see? What elements, aspects and features am I appreciating and why?” And I realized I am mostly inspired by visual languages that are somehow already conventional, the aesthetics of which are familiar to our minds: if a set of aesthetic rules for shapes, for colors, and for spatial composition works in a context I observe, I believe there should be a way to apply them to the designs I am working on. The visual contexts I am referring to are abstract art, but also the repetitive aesthetics of music notations, especially contemporary music notations, or the layering systems of architectural drawings, or even the shapes and features of objects and natural elements: visual environments our minds can refer to even without really getting it.
I mainly rely on my Pinterest boards to organize such visual inspirations.
I then daily use my twitter feed and some blogs I find interesting to stay updated,
As for data-visualization related blogs I’d suggest:
- Alberto Cairo with The Functional Art
- Andy Kirk with Visualisingdata
- Enrico Bertini with Fellinlovewithdata
Artists and data-visualization designers (and friends!) that inspires me:
I also daily read some more general design and culture oriented blogs such as:
Dreams And Ambitions | My most profound dream is to being able to keep on raising my personal bar and living a life fulfilled with passion and curiosity for what I do every day.
Besides, I’d like to work more and more within fields where our job as information designers could really make a difference for individuals and for the society we live in: finding new points of views on non-resolved phenomena, tackling important issues for the collectivity, revealing unexpected facts and stories in a powerful visual way and by means of data-visualization.
Motivating Others | I like the idea of making the designers that works for us part of a collective dream we’re trying to reach every single day with the work we put in the world. I like to take in challenging and exciting projects for the studio to make people experiment, learn and confront themselves with new stimuli.
I like to make them feel appreciated and recognized worldwide for the amazing work they are doing.
The Legacy I’d Like To Leave Behind | Talking about our work, and my work, I really think and feel that pure beautiful visual works are somehow relevant in everyday life, because they can become a trigger to get people curious to explore the contents these visuals convey.
I like the idea of making people say “oh that’s beautiful! I want to know what this is about!”
At Accurat, when we do data visualizations, we really tend to never start from “visual standars” to visualize data, we never start by listing the possibilities that we have or by seeing what the tools we use can create easily.
We like the idea to design very customised pieces, every time, exploring how these analytical representations can be beautiful, and pleasant, of course keeping the accuracy of the data analysis intact and clear.
And we do that, because we really think that in certain cases the aesthetic aspects of a data-visualization can be considered as important as the data itself in helping readers get interested about a topic, and in triggering their curiosity to explore more.
Thus, I am interested in designing data-driven work able to trigger curiosity and wander, to give a sense of inquiry and a feeling of intensity, and to convey emotions.
I’d just like people to truly think that beauty is functional, and it is worth to be pursued.