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Call it the Nick Felton Effect: Designers can’t get enough of visualizing their own quotidian doings. The latest comes at us from New York designer Lauren Manning, who spent 2010 jotting down everything she ate, then turned the data into an all-you-can-eat buffet of infographics — more than 40, in all.
She wanted to find "the most effective way to visualize information."
Obsessive? Uh, yeah. (And logging food is only part of the story; Manning documented every other aspect of her life for two years, right down to how many text messages she tapped out.) The reason: She wanted to find "the most effective way to visualize information," she tells us. So by charting her daily intake of sushi, fries, and the like, she figured she could gain some sort of insight into the mysterious ways of the perfect data viz. What do we learn here? We learn that Manning looooooves chicken. It’s pretty obvious no matter how the data’s organized. We also learn that Manning is not really human, as she does not appear to eat dessert. Ever. In a larger sense, we learn that beyond some basic tenets of good data visualization — clarity, accuracy, and so on — infographics are deeply subjective. Manning says that when she showed her charts to other people, they had a whole panoply of responses, often to the same visualization. "The feedback I received really showed that there is no one answer to which method and style should be used," she says. Instead, it revealed that "different methods can all have a place when used in an appropriate setting." As for whether it changed her eating habits, as you’d assume seeing an entire farm's worth of poultry on the page might: "My affinity for chicken has become something I'm more conscious of because it was such an outlier in the data," she says, "but still I find myself ordering it just as often."