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Matthew Stewart Portrait

Data Sculpture and the Importance of Conveying a Message to the User

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Considering the importance of data and how it can be communicated, designers explore different ways of visualising data through simple, effective, and aesthetically appealing outputs. Data Aided Design connected with Matthew Stewart to discuss his design approach and how he communicates information that is often hard to understand by the viewer.

Matthew Stewart is a designer of data sculptures. An emerging professional, he is currently launching his own business having graduated with a Model Making degree from Arts University Bournemouth last summer. His business model has several facets that focus on the conception, design, and production of data sculptures for clients and companies. During his studies and time as a post-graduate, he has learned the advantages of working with data and has tailored his work to create sculptures directly derived from data.

50 Years of Difference Global Temperature Change © Matthew Stewart

How do you implement data in the design process you apply for your projects?

The function of my data sculptures is to take data which would have been complicated for the viewer to understand, and present the data in a way which is easier to digest, ultimately meaning the core message the data shows is well understood. Humans live in a physical 3D world, thus by bringing data off a page or screen means that you are unlocking different aspects of cognitive thinking and comprehension.

50 Years of Difference Global Temperature Change © Matthew Stewart

What are the advantages of using data in your design and fabrication process?

My data sculptures can have one of six purposes: to educate, celebrate, entertain, predict, promote, or analyse. So far, I have created artworks that satisfy three of these purposes, some of which were for companies, and some were for my university studies. Working with data is so fascinating and enlightening when you gain an in-depth understanding of various topics. Using data makes the design process of my work very regimented; there is no arbitrary “I will paint this bit black cause I want to represent my artistic view of XYZ.” The sculpture will be coloured based on the data itself or to make the data easier to read..

“My definition of Data Sculpture: A rational & logically designed three-dimensional form, which engages an audience, through concise communication of a given data set.”

How do you work with data in your company?

To make a data sculpture, I start with the data. This involves getting a full understanding of the subject area and getting a clean data set to work with. I highlight parameters, clarify the key message I will be focusing on, and do a considerable amount of problem-solving. From my head to paper to software, I figure out how to bring data off the page and into a physical space. I create digital sketch models and conduct material tests to develop the project until I am happy with the design. Often, the manufacturing makes heavy use of rapid prototyping techniques because of the guaranteed high level of accuracy, which is imperative to ensure the sculpture’s physical tolerances and keep true to the data being communicated.

Results of 2019’s Eurovision © Matthew Stewart

What do you think will be the future evolution data use in the design field?

We live in an age of data, and harnessing information can be very insightful but also chaotic. Too much data and an imperfect vessel of communication and lead to confusion and a lack of clarity. My work aims to strip back the numbers and present the same facts but in a cohesive manner.

Matthew Stewart Portrait
50 Years of Difference Global Temperature Change © Matthew Stewart
50 Years of Difference Global Temperature Change © Matthew Stewart
Results of 2019’s Eurovision © Matthew Stewart
Le Mans 2017 Data Sculpture for Prodrive © Matthew Stewart
Le Mans 2017 Data Sculpture for Prodrive © Matthew Stewart
Le Mans 2017 Data Sculpture for Prodrive © Matthew Stewart
Francesca Silvi

Francesca Silvi

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