VINCI'09 location:Sydney, Australia date:24-25 September 2009
This paper is a qualitative case study analysis of the issues involved in designing and implementing data sculptures, the physical “embodiment” of data in a tangible presence, shape or form, within the context of an undergraduate design studio. It demonstrates how approaches and theories from the field of data visualization can form a rich contextual resource and motivational tool for teaching principles of creative design. A relatively short, two-week assignment challenged students to investigate and convey a meaningful data-driven insight through a tangible representation. In this paper, we analyze the resulting collection of physical artifacts developed by the students to reveal notable design approaches of embodying abstract information. We present a novel classification of data sculptures based on a semiotic taxonomy (symbolic, iconic, or indexical) and consider the qualities of representational fidelity and narrative formulation, for instance when the unfolding of the data-driven narrative is seen as a process, rather than an outcome. In addition, we investigate how the introduction of digital fabrication techniques influenced the design strategies chosen by the students versus handmade approaches.