I was surprised and delighted to get an email from Sebastian Sadowski asking if he could produce a visualization for the Untold AI analysis. Because of course. I’ll share that in a post tomorrow, but for now, let me introduce him via an email interview…
1. Hi there. For our readership, introduce yourself, what you do, how you got into it, and how it relates to sci-fi interfaces.
I’m an independent designer for interfaces and data visualizations. The last seven years, I’ve been designing interfaces for various companies and institutions, e.g. to access autonomous vehicles for the Volkswagen Group Future Center, home appliances by Bosch and Siemens or trade-related data for the UN’s International Trade Centre. In recent years, I’ve been dealing more and more with complex data and nowadays mostly work on projects to visualize and access big amounts of complex data. Interfaces in sci-fi movies have always been an inspiration for my projects.
2. Most of the readership doesn’t know how data visualization gets done. Can you walk us through how you get a project, what steps you take, and how you know you’ve done a good job? Who gives you direction, and who uses the output of your work? What makes for a great data visualizer?
Mostly, I get requests from clients who have a big dataset which neither can be opened in Excel nor visualized in it. They are looking for new or custom shapes to visualizing their data and need an interface to make it accessible. I start with exploring the dataset, search for some interesting insights or stories to tell. Next step is to search for inspirational projects which could fit to the dataset and topic —at this point I normally check scifiinterfaces.com if I have an interface or visualization in mind that I’ve seen in a movie. I bundle the ideas and start prototyping with some custom forms and real data, e.g. with D3.js. After that research period, I discuss the results with the client and decide which content we want to show, based on which chart type or which interactive elements we want to include.
If you’re interested in the in-depth workflow then please feel free to check out this article which I wrote some time ago about “Crafting a custom, mobile-friendly data visualization.”
3. Tell us a favorite story about one of your projects.
Once I got a job request from the New York-based company which is doing the interfaces for Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, Batman and so on, called Perception. They wanted me to work on some data visualizations for an user interface. That job was made possible due to a side-project of mine which the team have seen online about an interface concept where autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are responsible for the worldwide agricultural outcome.
The interface is basically a dashboard visualizing patterns exposing irrigation problems to soil variation or pest, bacterial and fungal infections. Besides precise satellite pictures, airborne cameras provide images to analyze healthy/distressed plants, chlorophyll- and nitrogen-levels and more.
The design has been inspired by the work of gmunk who is famous for his work on Tron or Oblivion.
4. What is your background? Are you a designer by training? If someone wanted to get into your line of work, what would they need to study? What skills would they need to develop?
5. What’s your favorite sci-fi interface that you didn’t work on?
The Iron Man interfaces are great, e.g. the holograms and interfaces in Iron Man 2 (see below). They have been an inspiration for a recent side-project where I designed some experimental data visualizations for augmented reality.
6. What’s your favorite sci-fi interface that you didn’t work on?
Currently, I experiment with augmented reality (AR) and think about how I could visualize data in AR. It’s amazing what we can already achieve with a consumer device such as the iPhone X. If you’re interested in that topic, make sure to read my top 5 learnings for data visualizations in AR.
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