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Data viz is the new branding. Just ask Pentagram’s latest hire

Giorgia Lupi, who specializes in data visualization, joins Pentagram’s New York office as its first partner in seven years. Here’s what she plans to do.

The partners at Pentagram’s New York office have brought us some of the most notably designed brands of our day, including Microsoft, Shake Shack, Slack, and Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign. Now the team has added its first new partner since 2012, and its first specialist in data visualization: Giorgia Lupi.

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Giorgia Lupi [Photo: Jake Chessum/courtesy Pentagram]

Lupi founded the Milan and New York-based data viz firm Accurat in 2010. She has since launched a data identity for IBM, held a data visualization workshop at MoMA, and launched an augmented reality data art project with Google. But she’s probably best known for her unique approach to data visualization, which is filled with quirks and hand-drawn formatting. In a world where automated tools can transform spreadsheets into picture-perfect data, Lupi opts to create personal data art projects out of pen, paints, and paper. She once spent a year sending hand-drawn postcards that depicted her week to fellow designer Stefanie Posavec. In another instance, she quantified the grief of a close personal friend who had a hospitalized child as a timeline of flowers. “Data is a lens to the way I see the world,” says Lupi. “It’s a filter, then a design material I create with.”

Lupi attributes her point of view to the fact that she doesn’t have a data science background, even though she has a PhD in information design. She first studied as an architect.

Bruises, The Data We Don’t see. [Photo: courtesy Pentagram]

At Pentagram, where she’ll have access to the biggest brands in the world, Lupi believes she can find a greater reach for data design in general. “It’s a good opportunity to expand graphics beyond the niche field of data visualization, and figure out how data visualization can be part of our daily experiences–in the things we consume, wear, and see,” Lupi says. “I want to explore things I don’t think have been done before.”

Dear Data postcards. [Photo: courtesy Pentagram]
Lupi will work on events and brand activations, corporate earning reports, and glitzy interactive installations–all the sorts of things she did at Accurat. Pentagram, however, has more reach into traditional brand identity work. “I think there’s a huge opportunity to enrich any type of visual pattern or visual treatment that could seem like graphic design for a brand with elements that are data driven,” Lupi says.

But she also acknowledges that we’re living in an age of increased privacy demands. Many of us don’t like to be reminded that so much data–and so much personal data–is out there. “It’s a very interesting moment in time where the brand-to-customer relationship–when data is involved,” Lupi says. “[There’s a] need to shift from a one-way conversion, from brands collecting and using data we provided to them, to brands giving us measurable value back to us in the process.”

As for Accurat, Lupi is stepping down from her role as design director, and all new work she brings in will be within the Pentagram umbrella. However, as Pentagram regularly partners with specialty design firms, she still expects to collaborate closely with the 35-person data visualization team she leaves behind.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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