Arts Funding Static Data Visualisation…

BRIEF: Part 1. Design a static graphic image that maps, depicts or contrasts some statistical information, so that it surprises and challenges how we might think about it.
Present the graphic (PNG) in a full screen, single, responsive web page. Your graphic will be a critical and creative reflection on the information it uses as a source.

[RESEARCH] Sources of Inspiration:
Space Monkeys & Tiger Wine: 
A Look at Global Animal Trade: Below is a screenshot from a data visualisation on the National Geographic website, the purpose of which is to allow the user to explore and learn about which animals are most commonly traded internationally, whether it be for garment production, Chinese medicine or scientific testing, this interactive example allows the user to educate themselves about the amount, purpose, and primary locations of trade for each animal by clicking on the circles representing different animal groups. This graphic interface reminds me of the work of artist Thomas Downing who primarily uses circles in his paintings. Check out the interactive version here.

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Endangered Safari: Below you can see a data visualisation by RJ Andrews from the website infowetrust.com much like the previous National Geographic example ‘A Look at Global Animal Trade’, it too attempts to visualise the most endangered animals in Africa, as a colour coded interactive visual map to raise awareness of species populations that are in decline. The animals are coloured relating to the level of threat to their species, red being critically endangered, down through orange, yellow, grey and green being of least concern. As well as being very visually appealing the image is packed with data, “Dimensions used include color (threatened species status), size (animal’s actual relative size), direction facing (population increasing/stable or decreasing), and placement (animal classification).While not as obvious, animals are positioned close to their relatives. So carnivores are on top, above monkeys and apes, who are above all of the food. Key large animals (elephant, rhino, giraffe, and cape buffalo) anchor each of the corners. Within each of the sections, related animals are also grouped. The lesser kudu is next to the greater kudu, all of colobus monkeys are together, zebras keep each other company, etc.” Check out the interactive version here.

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Kamel Makhloufi: 
Below you can see Canadian designer Kamel Makhloufi’s pair of powerful pixel diagrams which effectively visualize the human death toll of the Iraq war in a simple and powerful way. Each pixel represents a death; U.S. soldiers Blue, Iraqi troops Green, enemies Grey, and civilians Orange. The left diagram is ordered by category, whereas the right one lists the casualties by the time in which they occurred. I really like this graphic because firstly, it demonstrates the power of organising and categorising data to make it visually understandable. Secondly, because the right diagram is so unclear and looks like static noise, I believe that it is a metaphor for the lack of transparency and censorship when it comes to accurate statistics and news reporting on reported death tolls as a result of wars.

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The Colors of Motion: Below you can see two images from ‘The Colors of Motion’ website by interactive developer and designer Charlie Clark, where he explores the use of colour in movies. “It works by using a bash script which runs ffmpeg to export frames from a video file. The frame rate of the exports depends on the length of the video. The bash script then calls a PHP script which extracts the average colour from each frame. The results are spit out as a JSON file with the hex values in an array. The front-end runs on backbone, and presents the colour data. Navigate the colours in a number of ways, and compare the colour to each frame.” These abstract and interactive images which can be displayed as a series of lines or squares of colour, strongly remind me of the work of both artists Gene Davis and Gerhard Richter. Check out the website here.

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Other sources of inspiration and artistic references include; Damien Hirst, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Terry Frost, Yayoi Kusama, Peter Blake, Gerhard Richter, Piet Mondrian, Kamel Makhloufi, Peter Saville, David McCandless’ ‘Information is Beautiful‘, Barnett Newman and artists from the ‘Washington Color School‘ movement notably; Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, Gene Davis and Kenneth Noland. All of the artists mentioned can be seen on the mood board below.

MOOD BOARD:mood_board

Initial Idea Proposal: It’s no secret that arts funding in England has drastically fallen due to budget cuts over the last ten years, unfortunately, this has lead to the decision of Arts Council England (ACE) to withdraw its funding of £750,000 per year for local Bristol contemporary art gallery the Arnolfini from 2018 onwards. A stalwart of the ACE portfolio for 13 years, the harbourside gallery was notable for its absence in the list of Bristol arts organisations set to receive money from 2018, as it was judged to be ‘not viable’ in its current model, that is why I have chosen arts funding cuts in the U.K as my main focus for this data visualisation project, because it has affected me personally and many of the people who also live and visit Bristol as an arts and culture hub. To quote directly from Arts Council England’s ‘How we’ve balanced our investment – Briefing Document’ published on 15 January 2016 “The context for this new National Portfolio is declining income. In 2010 we invested £350m of Grant in aid into the portfolio. Today- for 2015/16 we have £270m – a larger figure than it could have been after the Chancellor protected culture with a relatively smaller cut of 5% in the last spending review. With this reduction in Grant in aid of 36% since 2010, our investment in 670 National Portfolio organisations and 21 Major Partner Museums consolidates a high performing sector, invests in new talent and provides a strong backbone for our arts and culture….The level of funding for National Portfolio organisations and Major Partner Museums assumes standstill funding from Government in 16/17 and 17/18 for later years….58 organisations will be leaving the portfolio. Undoubtedly this will have an impact on the organisations concerned and we intend to talk to them about next steps before we release any details about them more widely.”

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Artist Tacita Dean shares her views on arts funding cuts in an article in the Guardian titled ‘What’s the biggest question facing artists today?’ she states, “I think the biggest problem for artists is balancing a need for the market with a detachment from it. The demise of public funding and the overbearing existence of large, commerce-oriented galleries that even museums rely on these days, has distorted the capacity of artists to work freely.” artist Oreet Ashery also shares his views on arts funding, “There’s a lot more demand to find private funding but that can put artists in positions where they’re forced into corporate strategies. There’s quite a finger-pointing culture among artists. That pressure to say the right thing can distract from the battles we actually need to fight.” I believe the increase in demand to find private funding that Ashery is referring to is directly linked to arts funding cuts. However, the paradox of arts sponsorships and private funding is not a new issue, artists have been exploring the ambiguity for many years, namely, German-born artist Hans Haacke who produced a number of works highlighting Mobil Oil’s conspicuous and strategic art sponsorship in the 1980’s.

1000988Piet Mondrian’s Composition C (no.III), with Red, Yellow and Blue (1935).

concept_1Sketch above inspired by ‘Distribution of NPOs by region, 2014/15 ‘ data source which can be seen in full below.

DESIGN CONCEPT: I am using Piet Mondrian as a major source of inspiration for the static part of the data visualisation brief, specifically his later geometric abstract compositions. I believe his work lends itself very well to the purpose of data visualisation because his works mainly consist of tessellating squares and rectangles inside a grid, next to one another and separated by black lines. I believe that if each square is given a value it could work very effectively as a container for portraying data. There is also the obvious link that the data is about arts funding and anyone who is interested in art will recognise the distinctive style of Mondrian’s work, so it is important that my final static infographic is reminiscent of his work. I also propose to make two static graphics in the style of Mondrian’s geometric paintings to go side by side, to display two different sets of Arts Council England’s regional funding data, so the viewer can not only compare regional funding within the same year, but they can also compare funding between two different years, similar to the Kamel Makhloufi piece depicting the human death toll of the Iraq war (which can be seen above). Much like the static infographic I am proposing to make, Makhloufi’s piece at a glance looks like two abstract images side by side, but they are actually data visualisations and once you add the meaning of each representing a civilian death and the relevance of the colours, it makes the two abstract images much more powerful and impactful, the fact the two graphics are side by side emphasizes this idea because the user is able to compare and contrast across the two data visualisations.

DESIGN PROCESS:
Below: Shows two bar graphs and the raw data used to produce them, taken from the ‘Arts Funding Statistics’ document I sourced from the www.parliament.uk website. This data, specifically the raw data sheet at the back of the document was crucial to producing an accurate data visualisation for this project because I would not have been able to produce my visualisation using just the bar graphs.stat_7_newstat_2_newdark side

Below: You can see the process involved in accurately translating a series of percentages into four-sided blocks of colour and then tessellating those blocks so that they fit perfectly inside of a square, which proved to be rather challenging. I began by dividing an Adobe Illustrator document into a 10X10 grid consisting of 100 squares, each square representing 1% then producing oblongs of different colours each representing a different region of the U.K, using the data above. Once I had accurately produced a shape that perfectly represented the ‘Non-Profit Organisation Arts Council England Percentage of Regular Funding’ for each region, it was a case of tessellating those shapes and changing the arrangement in order to make it fit perfectly inside a square, which was an arduous process. Once the shapes fit inside the square document, I then added Mondrian’s signature black lines around each shape, ensuring not to cover any of the shapes, to give the visualisation his trademark aesthetic.

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IMG_9264Basic RGBmondrian_image_1Basic RGBmondrian_image_3
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mondrian_image_5sketch_mapAbove is an initial sketch I did of the ‘England Region Map Key’ in order to attempt to visualise how the map key could look and how the coloured regions of the map would interact with the two static infographics. I interpreted a region map of England in Mondrian’s trademark structural style with solid geometric black lines separating the different regions in England. I decided upon a colour key which would correspond with the two infographics; the North being colour coded Yellow, Midlands: White, East of England: Black, South: Navy, London: Red, and National: Blue, National is “organisations which have a significant national reach beyond their home region. This group consists of Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, English  National Opera, Northern Ballet. Opera North, Royal National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company, Southbank Centre and Welsh National Opera.”, all these colours are taken directly from Mondrian’s trademark palette of primary colours. You can see below the process of producing the final static data visualisation using Adobe Illustrator with my Mondrian colour palette on the left. As you can see in the previous iterations of the data visualisation above, I experimented a lot with different colours schemes and keys in order to make it as easy as possible for the viewer to understand the data visualisation graphic, as well as making it as aesthetically pleasing and ensuring that it still strongly referenced the work of Piet Mondrian, so that at a glance anyone who was aware of his work would instantly and instinctively associate the infographic with his work, to reinforce and reiterate the idea that the data visualisation about arts funding. You will also notice that the 2014/15 infographic is slightly bigger than the 2011/12 infographic on the left, this is because the funding for 2014/15 was 1.3% more than Arts Council England received in 2011/12, therefore the 2014/15 infographic is actually 1.3% bigger than the 2011/12 this is subtle but also very important, it also states this in the footer of the image.

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Basic RGB

To check out the final version in full, embedded in a webpage click the image above or click here.

Data sources used can be found here:
Source 1 / Source 2 / Source 3 / Source 4

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