One area of design that I can’t help but get very excited about, especially coming from a geographical background, is information graphics.
The relevance of well designed representations of often highly complex and convoluted information in an information-rich world is now more than ever.
One of the heroes of this industry is New York-based Nicholas Felton, who has been profiled in publications including the Wall Street Journal, Creative Review and Wired. Nicholas found some time to respond to some questions after wrapping up a project designing annual reports.
Were you formally trained in graphic design, and if so, did you enjoy the process?
Yes, formally and informally. I attended the Rhode Island School of Design where I received my degree in graphic design. Prior to that, I scrimped and saved for a Macintosh in high school, so that I could start tinkering with Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark.
I helped some friends back then produce a comic book, doing sundry layouts and production work on the project.
How did you develop into specializing in data and information graphics?
It all began with my personal project The Feltron Annual Report. After a few years of producing them, I began to receive requests from magazines for similar assignments.
Since then, I have been able to experiment and hone my approach to information design through more professional and personal projects.
How do clients normally communicate to you the way in which they want their data to be graphically represented?
Typically, they give me the information and ask me to come up with the best way to present it.
What is the typical work process of your diagrams, graphics from brief to completion and what are the tools you use?
These days, my approach has become a little more high-tech. I like to use Processing to get a sense for the shape of the data I’ve been given, whether it be a mapping or a graphing assignment. By writing or adapting a little program, I can sketch out the data and then determine how bold or nuanced to make the keying or labeling.
If a project is highly typographic, it will be produced in inDesign, while more graphic layouts are produced in Illustrator.
© Nicholas Felton, 2010
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a graphic for Popular Mechanics, a few other magazine assignments and the Daytum iPhone application.