Beautiful Data

metaLAB at Harvard, with support by the Getty Foundation, hosted a workshop for a diverse, elite group of curators, scholars, and technologists. The theme? A movement towards increased openness in museums and potential in showcasing their collections’ metadata. Cristoforo set out to design a visual language for workshop materials that would encapsulate the sense of big data and the latent patterns discovered therein.

Workshop Logo.

Since the data being played with in the workshop would take all forms and sizes, Cristoforo wanted an adaptive design language and found the circle, a shape core to metaLAB’s own branding identity to be a useful building block.

Desiring to capture both the individual and the collective identity of large data sets in a single image, Cristoforo began by playing with circle size. Inspired by Petri dishes and a microscopes field of view, he ultimately settled on creating a circle from a bunch of smaller circles.

The final touch came when, inspired by the the patterns of Ishihara color blindness tests, settled on adding in one additional color. This allowed the use of the metaLAB logo across various print materials to appear as though it belonged both inside and outside the larger cluster. This felt appropriate because metaLAB joined various other groups and institutions during the workshop and thus, the logo could also signify a collective identity too. E pluribus unum — out of many we are one.

In dialogue with the workshop logo, the metaLAB logo in the lower right.
A map from the welcome packet. One of many ways the red circle and gray design language was used for materials throughout the workshop.

As the workshop came to a close after two weeks, many of the presentations and data visualizations showcased by the workshop participants happened to use circles in their display, bringing the motif…full circle.


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