Eric Rodenbeck, the CEO of Stamen Design, held a lecture called “Data visualization as a creative practice,” at the Art Building on Tuesday.
Rodenbeck founded Stamen Design, a data visualization design studio, in 2001. According to Stamen’s website, the studio works on projects for different clients, including National Geographic, Facebook and the Dalai Lama.
“If we want to make sense of this world, we need the tools and language to be able to deal with it. Data visualization seems like one of the best ways to have this kind of conversation,” Rodenbeck said.
During the lecture, Rodenbeck explained that data visualization is the mix of graphic design and statistical analysis used to present pictures instead of raw data.
Aaron Wilder, the curator of the Natalie & James Thompson Art Gallery, said the art gallery brought people from different professions on campus for the “Tuesday Night Lecture Series.”
He said the gallery gave students an opportunity to explore their future career directions by having conversations with the people who are more established in their respective field.
Rodenbeck came to the Bay Area in 1994, lured by a deep curiosity for the budding internet-based industry.
Rodenbeck has always been passionate for working in data visualization.
“There was a whole new set of possibilities around the communications community that was just emerging that grabbed me,” Rodenbeck said.
“Eric’s passion for city’s designs and technology has made him both a local and international leader at this section.” Wilder said.
Rodenbeck shared his projects with the audience. He showed the digital atlas of foreign-born populations in the Bay Area and the atlas of emotion which he collaborated on with The Dalai Lama and psychologist
Dr. Paul Ekman.
“Data visualization invites more questions than it answers,” Rodenbeck said.
By learning about data, Rodenbeck discovered new patterns and meanings in the world. When his studio was working on the Atlas of Foreign Born Population, he and his team members found something strange.
“In 1900, there was ten thousands of Chinese people registered in San Francisco but it was zero in 1910.” The data continued to show that there was no data about Chinese immigrants for the following decades.
They thought there was a bug in the data until a historian told them the census was conducted when there were no Chinese people. At the time, the Chinese Exclusion Act restricted the number of Chinese people from coming into the country, which caused difficulty in getting citizenship.
Rodenbeck said he felt it was important to share the information about data visualization with students.
“It’s not like the amount of data in the world is going to shrink,” Rodenbeck said.
“Data visualization is important because it connects data that describes our everyday lives in ways that are understandable and also directionable,” Wilder added.
The design program lecturer, Earl Gee brought his students to the lecture. Gee said it was important for students to learn from professional examples because most of the jobs they’ll have after graduation will involve a heavy use of data.
“Contributing visual skills to visualizing the data will be valuable to any organization they join,” Gee said.
Interior design senior Cristina Acereto said she was glad to learn about a new career she didn’t know existed.
“I don’t even know that much about data visualization. I am glad he didn’t talk about one project, he talked about a lot of things,” Acereto said.