Should it even be beautiful?

A couple of days ago, I posted on Twitter “I am grateful for those who call my data visualizations beautiful. But I don't want them to be. They are meant to be schoking, cheerful or exciting or terrifying. If they're only beautiful, I'm failing my job.”

Because I am. I am incredibly grateful for all those who found my work beautiful. It makes me proud of my design skills. It tickles my ego. It also makes somewhat worried.

Have I given up meaning over appearance?

In the last year, we’ve seen countless of gorgeous data visualizations about COVID. Beautifully drafted dashboards, sculptural line charts. None of these seemed to reflect the grief and quiet concerns I saw around me - among those affected by this crisis.

I do want my work to be beautiful. Because visuals without aesthetics are uncompelling. Beauty catches my eyes, it makes me stop in my tracks. But gut-wrenching data should be more than beautiful in their representation.

This led me to another question: do we overuse the term beautiful? What does beautiful mean? Does it mean pleasant to the eye? Does it mean surprising? Does it mean expressive? Provocative?

How do you define beauty? Can beauty be meaningful?

I don’t have an answer to this. All I know is that beauty is subjective. Maybe from time to time, we should put words on why we found an art piece, a movie, a song beautiful. Not to be corny, but because we may very well find that beauty is in fact, an emotional response in itself.

But I digress,


A retro provocative song (in French): “Non, Non, Rien n’a changé
A podcast that made me change my mind: “
On the business of selling change, making green common & mindfulness as a super power for happiness