Federica Fragapane

"I use to think about my visualizations as the visual equivalent of articles or stories"

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Federica Fragapane is a freelance Information Designer. Among her projects, she designed data visualizations for the United Nations, Wired, Scientific American, Penguin Random House and Corriere della Sera – La Lettura, working on the analysis and visualization of cultural, environmental and social topics. She is co-author of the infographics children’s book “Planet Earth” and author of “The Stories Behind a Line” a visual narrative of six asylum seekers’ journeys. Many of her projects have an experimental approach and she is interested in exploring the relationship between data visualization and people.

A simple definition of infographics. Infographics is…
A visual translation of data and information: a language to communicate topics, contents and stories to people.

Which are your main references?
I’ve starting approaching the data visualization world while attending the Density Design course and then working at Accurat studio, both extremely inspiring experiences: they have been my first references. I love Stefanie Posavec’s pieces and I find Mark Lombardi’s work very inspirational.

In general my usual visual references are not coming from the infographics world. It’s kind of a classic, but nature is my first source of visual inspiration.

I’m also a huge fan of Ernst Haeckel’s prints.

Let us hear about your work process?
There are two main elements I consider as starting points: the people who are going to read my visualizations and the usage context. Starting from these aspects, I then think about the main structure of my project.

I use to think about my visualizations as the visual equivalent of articles or stories: I often refer to the elements I design as “visual alphabets”, so it’s very important for me to know how complex the “visual sentences” I’m going to write can be.

In general, my usual design process is mainly composed of 3 phases: selection of sources, data analysis and definition of a specific visual model. There are cases in which I propose the topics to be visualized, as for my visualizations for La Lettura, the cultural supplement of Corriere della Sera.

Visualizing CO2 emissions – The source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The data collection process behind these projects can be very various. In some cases I directly find online interesting structured datasets to work with, in other cases I find a topic that I think could be interesting and I build up my dataset.

Then I study it to see what could be the more interesting way to give the contents shape.

Visualizing CO2 emissions – Defining the visual model

This step is followed by the definition of a specific visual model and – during this design process – the visual inspiration phase is a very important one to me.

Visualizing CO2 emissions – Color as tool to help the reader in exploring the information

And then after having design the visualization I usually test it, showing it to “no-dataviz” people: even if they are complex, my visualizations have to be able to communicate properly, so testing their clearness (and the legend’s effectiveness) it’s very important to me.

Visualizing CO2 emissions – The complete visualization

What are we going to learn from your talk at Malofiej?
I’m going to talk about the design processes behind some projects that are very different from each other and I’ll share the lessons I’ve learnt through them.

I‘ll particularly focus on the relationship between designer and reader: as Information Designer, I constantly explore the possibilities that designing a visualization opens in terms of creation of a connection with people and I’ll talk about it.

I’ll also share my views on how certain data visualization projects can also become generator of empathy, emotions, and comprehension. It’s a research field I’m very interested into and I hope that sharing my thoughts on it can be a starting point for reflections.

What do you think?