To the average person, the word “data” might conjure up an image of flashing computer screens with an intimidating amount of numbers and letters that don’t make any sense. But, for information designer Giorgia Lupi, data presents an opportunity to create beautiful patterns that visually tell stories and she has dedicated her career to making statistics accessible to all.
Born in Italy, Giorgia Lupi’s work challenges the impersonality of data and sees her “designing engaging visual narratives that reconnect numbers to what they stand for: stories, people, ideas,” states design firm Pentagram, where she recently joined as a partner.
“As a designer, I work with data as my primary tool and material. I try to find art in science and science in art, and to do so, I often blend techniques, styles and media.”
Prior to becoming a partner at Pentagram she ran her own data visualisation company. Now, for the first time, Lupi’s work can be worn. This week she launched her first co-lab collection with fashion label & Other Stories, a brand owned by Swedish conglomerate H&M which launched in 2013.
Information Designer Giorgia Lupi
Not only does this line gorgeously display the designer’s skills, but also the achievements of three trailblazing women who have been pioneers in previously male-dominated fields and paved the way for other women.
The three women are Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer in history; Rachel Carson, who spearheaded the environmentalist movement; and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman astronaut.
“The inspiration for this co-lab is based on the true stories of three remarkable women in science. Using datasets about their major accomplishments, as well as impactful information from their lives as design material, we created three unique patterns. Resulting in a collection based on data-driven narratives, beautifully visualised to reveal a deeper meaning,” Lupi said in an interview with & Other Stories.
The collection features 12 ready-to-wear pieces including sweaters, dresses and bodysuits, all embellished with the data-set patterns, at price points ranging from $49 to $299.
Looking at the intricate designs, it might not be immediately obvious what they represent, but the patterns were not created to be comprehended, but rather to tell a story.
“I don’t expect everybody to fully understand the meaning of each pattern,” Lupi told Fast Company. “I think different people can appreciate it in different ways. But the patterns and the clothes do tell a story, and you understand it more and more as you take it in.”
For the designs inspired by Ada Lovelace, the woman who created the first computer program, Lupi analysed and visualised the structure and mathematical form of the algorithm she wrote with a colourful geometric pattern. This was then applied to a sheer blouse, roll neck jumper and a shirtdress inspired by the mid-1800s when Lovelace did her research.
An ethereal navy dress, chunky jumper and high neck bodysuit is inspired by Rachel Carson’s best-known book, Silent Spring. “Through different techniques on the garments, such as embroidery and colour codes, I visualized the structural and semantical analysis of her work, Silent Spring,” explains Lupi.
Every element represents a chapter, and the colour pattern represents the 15 words most used in the book. The colourful floating designs are both reminiscent of a hummingbird and a complex mathematical diagram.
Mae Jemison is a true polymath but best known to most for participating in the STS-47 lower orbit mission, an achievement that established her as the first woman of colour in space.
“Mae Jemison’s perseverance established her in many different fields, from medicine to international aid, contemporary dance to an explorer of environmental sciences and sustainability, but the role I found most fascinating and wanted to focus on for this collection is an astronaut,” says Lupi.
“Besides being the first woman of colour in space, she also aspired many women to pursue space exploration. The success of her mission is a celebration of her dedication to overcome challenges and the realization that to create change you need multiple perspectives. The pattern is based on her orbits and experiments that she conducted in space.”
The circle print depicting Jemison’s 126 orbits of her 1992 expedition is featured on a spacesuit-inspired puffer jacket and a fluidly flowing dress.
Lupi has become renowned for her work in advocating the humanism of data. She was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2018 and recently joined MIT Media Lab as a Director’s Fellow. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on New Metrics.
“Data doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating, because, if you think about it, data isn’t even real! Rather it’s abstract, representing the details of our lives and our ideas,” says Lupi.
“For this collection, data is used in terms of content rather than numbers, therefore, the material becomes more personal and approachable. Collecting data is a way for us to build records and preserve memories. Reclaiming the human approach to data allows for narrative components that can act as very powerful tools and design materials to create stories we can all relate to.”