Dear Data

I love designers that pour their hearts into self-initiated projects. A fair amount of determination is essential and can be rewarded with a professional speciality. These projects are often built during those lonely after office hours. How nice it must be to have a partner-in-crime that challenges you, keeps your head straight and makes sure you don’t give up.

Italian Giorgia Lupi and American Stefanie Posavec met for the first time during a design festival. Their connection led to a promise to stay in touch. Not through email, but the old-fashioned way, as penpals. Every week they sent each other a postcard from their homes in London and New York, provided with a graphic experiment.

At the beginning of every week, through SMS, they chose a topic they would document in a data visualisation. Both in their own way, entirely hand-drawn. The challenge wasn’t just the visualisation, but also choosing a topic and collecting data. It became a daily ritual to count all sorts of things; from animals in the wild, overheard conversations, their own wardrobes and bookcases to feelings and new contacts. Everything can be measured and visualised.

Their correspondence was brought together in a fascinating book that doesn’t just show artistic improvement, but also the blossoming of their friendship by short, personal notes that were added to each postcard. They added notes here and there, for example about the week they would meet again and give a lecture together. After the lecture an enormous line of fans forms, offering drinks. They hope to become a part of the visualisation.

During the year, Giorgia and Stefanie discover many new links between themselves and their surroundings. Data is everywhere and even if their surroundings don’t provide enough inspiration, they can always count and process their own behaviour. This way, Big-Data that’s also collected by tech companies, now becomes Dear Data.

The hand-drawn visualisations and topics make the book a personal documentary. Completely different from what mechanical Quantified Self apps offer. Not only did Giorgia and Stefanie become more efficient, but they also developed a better understanding of themselves and others. A notable example is the week they visualised loving and irritable moments with their lovers; data visualisation as a love letter, it doesn’t get more poetic.

The original postcards are held in the permanent collection of MoMa.


Author info


Director/founder Graphic Matters.