Live data visualization is a top design trend of 2020

A partial transcript of my episode 14 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the show.

In honor of my interview with Nora Voon, which really was eye opening for me in terms of thinking about design at large, I decided to do what a millennial would do in this day an age and google top 10 designs of 2020. I realized that some of them mentioned one of the top trends being Live Data Visualization. Which seemed a little strange but that too is an integration of the asthetic appeal of the way in which information is presented in everyday design.

One of the articles wrote about Live Data Visualization in design that “From a stylistic standpoint, designers are going for a distinctly digital look with dark interfaces, heavy blues, abstract polygons and typography reminiscent of VHS technology. This is data that comes from a computer and is not trying to hide it.” And even when the numbers don’t mean anything and the statistics don’t actually reveal any information, it still creates the illusion of the appeal of watching history unfolding with that added sense of urgency created by the fact that there are no actual images documenting those events.

This is not unlike the silent radios, which were particularly prominent before the days of the internet in such places as restaurants, bars and even airports or train stations. I remember them being around when I was a kid, and they’re still around in some areas. And no, these were not broken old timey radios; these were essentially narrow horizontal screens that displayed text which was picked up from some type of electronic signal sent via television transmission.

But in a more modern context, in the early days of the coronavirus — you know, when coronavirus was shocking and cool before it became the new normal — I must admit that I would occasionally check in with a live-stream that updated real time figures of coronavirus cases and numbers of coronavirus-related deaths all over the world. And aside from the shock of seeing the numbers rise and rise and rise, I was also drawn by its aesthetic and near-hypnotic appeal, aided of course by the lo-fi music that made the anxiety it provoked sort of irresistible.

This prompts me to think that maybe, while I have been talking about information overload, another thing that is just as appealing to people is the formal urgency of information itself. And the way in which art or design reflects that is by replicating the most urgent of ways in which that information is presented to us – in other words, information that it is unaccompanied by actual images of the events.

Maybe that’s what we are addicted to, especially when we talk about the news and events happening all over the world. And lo and behold, I found that a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley from last year has found that information acts on the brain’s dopamine-producing reward system in the same way as money or food. And by the way, that’s also why click-bait articles are so.. well, effective. Even though most of them don’t deliver on their promise, it is the way in which they are presented that makes the irresistible.

A statement on the research does say that “Just like junk food, this might be a situation where previously adaptive mechanisms get exploited now that we have unprecedented access to novel curiosities.”