We were pleased to host Joris Maltha from the internationally renowned designed firm CatalogTree to Berkeley on March 3rd, 2017, to discuss designing with data for truth.
Joris claimed that in general design choices enable designers to create a narrative, a truth of their own, through their almost God-like perspective that lays out information in a certain fashion — at once all encompassing, while still finely grained in detail. But data, it is often argued, holds a truth of its own that resists or at least complicates a designer’s intentions. Joris suggests otherwise. Objectivity in deploying data through visualizations, he noted, is still a myth. Ultimately, even when using data points, there are so many possible versions of categorization, possible elements from which to choose, possible methods of organization, that a designer is able to suggest a story of their own design.
What then is designing for truth? For Joris, it seemed to be simply a recognition of human patterns and behavior … and an understanding of the limits of data itself. Designers, he maintained, need to recognize exactly what narratives they are creating in their visualizations, and should be willing to admit when data does not provide any patterns at all.