On the first day of DataMash, the Defra Data Programme's two-day un/conference with Ordnance Survey in Southampton, we spoke to Matt from conference visual recording artists Drawnalism about their work.
Drawnalism have been helping us to visualise quite complex concepts around data and transformation for others – as well as ourselves! – for some time now. This is what Matt had to say...
There's also a transcript below.
Hi Matt! – Do you want to introduce yourself, please, because people see your work but maybe don’t see you?
I’m Matthew Buck – I’m from Drawnalism – there are two of us here today – and we’re very pleased to be at DataMash.
So you’ve been involved in the Defra Data Programme – the previous Unconference – but also work even before that helping us visualise what we’re trying to achieve with data in Defra…what’s that been like for you?
It’s been really interesting, and a privilege – we’ve been a bit like the submarine – we’ve been in from the start, which has been lovely, we’ve gone from absolute first principles. One of the speakers here today – Lucy Knight – has just given an excellent session on the value of iterating from first principles, which often means scribbling on a post-it note or a piece of paper, and not being afraid to make a mistake; not worrying about colouring in neatly – and that’s pretty much what we do, so it’s been extremely interesting and a privilege.
Great. I mean, one of the things that’s so impressive when people actually see your work, is that you’ve taken something that’s really arcane…arm, stuff and subject matter that people find really hard to even grasp, but you make it so…make it come alive. How do you go about taking some of those really complex ideas and turning them into something that people can understand?
It’s a great question, and really hard – in truth – to actually answer, because sometimes you don’t want to poke too deeply, but if I was going to try to answer it: that it is a listening skill; if you listen harder – in the old saying, ‘you’ve got two ears, one mouth’ – you unlock more than you do if you speak.
I guess finally, right, we’ve gone now from the first unconference, to an even bigger unconference, where do you see this going – do you think we’re just going to get even bigger unconferences, more people, and more graphics being drawn at sessions – what’s your feeling about what’s a happy medium?
It’s a lovely question…there are a million different ways we can do this; people know us best for this, because it’s a very obvious public display that brings a great deal of value. But there’s a before this bit, which is to your first question about the Defra Digital [and Data!] Programme, and there’s an after bit; the same skills and needs pertain, and that’s very much what Drawnalism is about. So we hope we’ll carry on; we expect the form to change a bit, but this is natural. Things should change.
Great – Well thanks for your time, Matt, really appreciated.