Lecture Series One

Completed: March–July, 2005

Making data meaningful—this phrase could describe what dozens of professions strive for: Wall Street systems designers, fine artists, advertising creatives, computer interface researchers, and many others. Occasionally something important happens in these practices: a data representation is created that reveals the subject’s nature with such clarity and grace that it both informs and moves the viewer. We both understand and care. This is the focus of Information Esthetics.

Information Esthetics, a recently formed not-for-profit organization, has put together a lecture series dedicated to helping this happen more often. World leaders in seven different aspects of sense-making have been invited to speak on topics from typography to visual perception, from charting to electro-mechanical engineering. The goal: to help expose the beauty experts see in their databases, better engaging their whole minds in interpretation; to help inspire art that’s not just decorated with data but makes the data readable, satisfying viewers’ minds as much as their eyes and hearts.

The format of the talks lets us explore more deeply than a typical panel or academic paper presentation. Each speaker will talk for a full hour, we’ll break for a half hour of fine spirits and snacks, then sit down again for an interview/chat led by series organizer and interaction designer W. Bradford Paley. The intent throughout is to delve into the implications these profound ideas have for human communication in general—but also to share some simple techniques that people can immediately put to use in their own projects.

The lectures took place Thursday evenings in the Chelsea Art Museum at 556 West 22nd street in Manhattan. They were free with the discounted $3 museum admission, and [did not, really—ed.] start promptly at 6:00 pm on these dates:


Robert Bringhurst, March 31 · Typography and layout
The distinguished Mr. Bringhurst is perhaps the most recognized typographer, a published poet, and the author of the fundamental contemporary work on typography: “Elements of Typographic Style.”

Judith Donath, April 21 · Social computing
Dr. Donath’s group at the MIT
Media Lab studies intriguing social interactions and produces some of the loveliest and clearest visual representations of these complex systems. She is a well-read and careful observer of fine art.

Ted Selker, May 12 · Situated devices
Dr. Selker focuses on putting intelligence into everyday bjects:
his invention of the eraser-like IBM Trackpoint device transformed laptop keyboards throughout the industry. His MIT Media Lab group continues to expand those explorations.

Lisa Strausfeld, May 26 · Real-time charting
Ms. Strausfeld is a partner in Pentagram, the respected New York
design firm. Her dense, readable information displays are well structured, visually rich, and intellectually satisfying.

Bill Buxton, June 16 · Supporting creative analysis
Mr. Buxton is a musician, mountain climber, and interaction designer; former Chief Scientist of Silicon Graphics; and a well-known and controversial computer interface expert. He owns an art gallery in Toronto with his wife and has been developing user interfaces explicitly for designers for over a decade.

Ron Rensink, June 30 · Visual perception
Dr. Rensink is one of the world’s experts on “Change Blindness” a feature of the human visual system that allows major changes to happen unnoticed right in front of one’s eyes, allowing (among other things) magic performances to work. He studies human perception, discovering and sharing principles useful in design.

Tamara Munzner, July 14 · Large data sets
Dr. Munzner specializes in information visualization: showing complexities in subjects that range from genetically-determined phylogenetic evolutionary trees to environmental sustainability. Her work is informed by an eye developed under her art-teacher father, and often reveals structure more clearly as a result.


This lecture series is an Information Esthetics production, made possible by a project of Digital Image Design Incorporated. The talks are presented by Nina Colosi, producer/curator of The Project Room at Chelsea Art Museum, and are supported in part by the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University.

Generous volunteer efforts support Information Esthetics, including high-reliability Web site hosting by Michael Rosenthal and expert audio/video support by Peter Kennard. Please contact i.e. director W. Bradford Paley if you would like to volunteer, be put on the i.e. mailing list, or otherwise participate.

The Information Esthetics site was generously hosted at the time of this series by Walrus Internet.

Site contents © 2005 by W. Bradford Paley, all rights reserved.