I was talking to a prominent figure on the global awards scene about data recently. Is it a discipline that deserves professional recognition of its own? Do we need awards for data visualisation, dashboard design and infographics? Is the capture, analysis, application and representation of data an art, or merely linear left-brain thinking? They’re good questions to be asking. I’m a great admirer of ‘data artists’ who bring new dimensions and experiences to visualisation and storytelling. But there are bigger questions here that cut to the heart of creativity itself.
There’s long been an elitist view of creativity suggesting only a few people are clever enough to fully appreciate ideas and artistry. These are the curators, critics and commentators who congregate around the art world wearing thick-rimmed spectacles and a preponderance of black. This elitism has infected marketing, advertising and media, where small tribes of practitioners still gather to exercise their opinions and judge the work of their peers. Data opens up a different conversation because it’s not about opinions or hypotheses or history or personal preferences, it’s about the reality of people’s behaviour. There’s nothing elitist about it.
For me, one of the most exciting creative opportunities is to work with that accelerating reality. How you respond to data is an ongoing chance for greatness, not a one-time event like making a TVC.
While you might feel more comfortable thinking of Google (for example) as a company of dull engineers, I see them as a wildly creative bunch constantly working to better their user experiences and stretch into new services not on mere whims or hunches, but informed by data. That’s the kind of creativity that deserves to be celebrated.