Data and James Bridle – By @hollygordonn

By Holly Gordon


Data and James Bridle


When I was at University, we would have guest lecturers come in each week and talk to us about their work and (hopefully) their creative process. Most of them were traditional designers; some of them didn’t come from a traditional design background and a handful of them were women.


During my second year, James Bridle gave us a lecture on data. With a background in computer science, he talked about how creativity and science interlink and how arguably; art and science are two sides of the same coin. I was hooked. Here was someone finally talking about academia and art as though they worked together and not separate. It opened my mind to how we go about executing ideas, data, information etc and how the choice in our art direction is valuable to communicating a message.


I have seen some of James Bridle’s work in exhibitions since that lecture and he one to admire. He has always felt like he is one step ahead and I am sure that is due to pushing his idea, making sure his communications are focused and honing in on the craft. His most well known piece of work is ‘Iraq War Wikihistoriogrpahy’ which is a 12 volume book series, documenting 5 years worth of changes made to the Wikipedia page on the Iraq War. Laid out and printed like a traditional encyclopaedia, it brings digital data into the real world and presents it in a physical and more tangible way. In the midst of the Iraq War, the constant changes of what was happening was probably hard to keep up with (much like current news) and with those changes, any online article had to be revised or re-written. By collecting all those edits as data and showing them physically, James Bridle has allowed us see the scale of something, which then helps us understand it better.


It reminds me of what is written in ‘Made to Stick’ when trying to explain numbers, statistics or facts to an audience. Visualise it well and make it relatable. Use something the audience already has knowledge of and expand on that. We all know what a volume of books look like and we understand that there are thousands of words that make up that volume so understanding something as complicated as a war is made easier.


I have tried to mimic this in my own design work and it can be really fun. Figuring out how data can be shown in a more digestible way opens up a whole world of art direction options. I have tried designing books, geometric patterns, pantone swatches and even a jigsaw and I enjoyed it all so I encourage you to do the same.


James Bridle‘s website


Iraq War Wikihistoriogrpahy



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