Buried behind words

Before I get to it, I hope you are safe and happy wherever you are. It’s been hot, polluted, inundated and COVID-infected in all parts of the world. Climate Change & Human crisis you know.

Back to the subject.

Today, I added an axis and all the legends on one of my data doodles. And, the illustration disappeared behind the annotations. If I had been working on paper, I would have probably trashed it. “Information easy to understand”: but you still have to read all these notes to get the message?

This is the moment where I admit data visualization frustrates me. I design like I speak. With very long and iterative paragraphs. Adding nuances over nuances. As I write this letter, I catch myself erasing my words, dissecting sentences, adding commas.

“Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,
La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.”

”From her eye, livid sky where the hurricane is born,
The softness that fascinates and the pleasure that kills,”

In 1857, Charles Baudelaire publish these striking sentences - as part of my favorite poem À Une Passante. *The English translation doesn’t pay it justice*

In 18 words and two comma *a little more, there’s a whole poem*, he describes the visual encounter of a wild, mysterious woman with a man, left to meditate on the love that could have been. He doesn’t write what her name was, how old was the man, what their romance could be. He writes enough to draw a human act in our minds.

I would like to create data visualizations like poems. To hold space for compassion. Precise and straightforward. Simple but nuanced. Grave but hopeful.



Cole Schafer is the master of copywriting: His ‘Sticky Notes’ newsletter
Lougè Delcy’s incandescent portraits:
Dapperlou Website