July 7, 2011

Visualizing Information with Clarity and Beauty: Designer Audrée Lapierre

It was through her Poster for the SLAM festival of Lausanne, Switzerland, that I discovered the graphic design sensibility of Montreal-based Audrée Lapierre. It was through her self-initiated project of Nutrition Facts Packaging and information graphic about the sharp decline of the North American honeybee colonies (featured by “integrated media platform” GOOD) that Lapierre has passion and talent for information design too. Here she shares her takes on transforming data into information in an honest and elegant way:

Can you please tell a little bit about yourself?
Where are you from? What do you do for a living?

I was born in Sorel, a small town in Quebec, Canada, and moved to Montreal when I was 17 to study graphic design in college. I graduated from UQAM University in 2008 with a degree in Graphic Design. Since then, I have worked in surface pattern, graphic design (mostly print and branding), user interface and data visualization. I am currently an Art director at FFunction (workspace below), a data visualization and user interface studio. I turn ideas, concepts, structures and data sets into clear, educational and appealing illustrations.

What is your statement about being a designer?
My design education rhymes with less is more. I seek good typography and minimalistic design. Most of the time, functionality is more important to me than the look, but I am only satisfied when I achieve both.

View the complete information graphic “What is Data Visualization”.

What is your opinion about visualizing data?
Why is information design important?

Data visualization works really well with my approach to design; it’s minimalistic and functional. We live in the information age; we are now confronted with complex data and new types of data that we didn’t have access to before, like social media for example. The information available nowadays is much richer; it’s an open window to our society. The tools we are using to understand this torrent of data are still primitive. It’s a bit like a new continent that we have not explored yet. We are barely figuring out it’s potential for business intelligence, marketing and even government transparency. It’s very exciting.

What makes for an unsuccessful data visualization?
An unsuccessful data visualization does not provide insight into the data. But it can also fail to be interesting, simple, functional or truthful.

Writer Alissa Walker wrote an article called
“Women in Industrial Design: Where My Ladies At?”
Where are the Ladies in Design?
I don’t know if it’s true to Industrial design, but I certainly know a ton of good female graphic designers.

What tools and materials do you use to work on your ideas
and make them grow?
I always sketch on paper first, but I’m not tidy; I just grab any sheet of paper lying around and draw quick thumbnails and ideas. Once I have a clear idea in my head, I switch to the computer. I use Illustrator and InDesign for wireframes and documents, and Photoshop for user interfaces and web design.

How does time factor into your designing?
I guess I come up with solutions much quicker than when I was in school, but very tight deadlines tend to make me stressed. In those cases, I spend less time exploring concepts and go straight to the computer to get something out quick.

What is the most rewarding part of being a designer?
I think it’s having clients totally wowed by you work. Showing them a solution they had never even envisioned.

Was there a part of your work that was particularly trying
and how did you deal with it?
As much as pleased clients can be rewarding, they can also be a source of frustration. I keep getting better at dealing with clients, but I also learned to put my pride aside.

How do you stay creative? Do you draw? Or keep a journal?
Strangely, I stay creative by reading books. I have a neverending list of books about various design topics like Information Architecture or Interaction Design. I study and I learn, and this makes me more curious and interested in my work.

What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I follow a bunch of designers and studios. I browse FFFFound and many design blogs. Actually, I have too many blogs in my Google Reader.

What is your advice to people who aspire to be a designer?
Work, work, work; something beautiful will come out of it.

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All images courtesy of Audrée Lapierre.

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