• Rob George

Week 3 Research: Data Visualization + Nicholas Felton

What is Data Visualization?

To better understand this topic I searched for a definition of data visualization. According to a post from import.io, "Data visualization is the representation of data or information in a graph, chart, or other visual format. It communicates relationships of the data with images." I also found a post by David McCandless from informationisbeautiful.net that has a great diagram of "what makes a good data visualization."

Fun Fact: This was the first site I found in this research and I had just learned about rollovers in coding and the diagram uses rollover codes to explain good data visualization. What a coincidence!


Who is Nicholas Felton?

Felton is a designer and entrepreneur who focuses his work on translating quotidian data into meaningful objects and experiences. He likes to combine his love for science with his love for design by creating interesting and unique visual designs for the data he collects. Quotidian data is a way of visualizing time and events. It is not like a traditional timeline that is one straight forward line of information but has more dimension and detail. Felton uses this idea in most of his work. A series of work he is well known for using this kind of data is his personal Annual Reports.

Annual Reports (2005-2014)

I really enjoyed reading his visual data of annual reports. Before I go into detail about these reports, let me explain what this project is about. Felton started creating these reports in 2005 by collecting data about himself. Data on everything he did for the entire year. All the places he visited, the music he listened to, weekly work:play ratio, etc. He gathered all this information through the memory in his devices, calendar, photos and Last.fm. Each year he would put all this data together into elegantly designed charts, graphs and maps and each annual report has it's own personality.


Real Quick: What is Last.fm?

I had never heard of this term so I decided to look it up. Last.fm is a website/app where you can create a profile that will document every song you listen to. Through data/coding requests called "Scrobbles", it is capable of understanding your taste in music and will suggest songs to you. You can also find out the very first time you heard a song when using Last.fm and share experiences with others. Scrobbles also help with troubleshooting problems within the application. It is used in many music streaming apps such as Spotify.


I found his first annual report in 2005 compared to his last report in 2014 to be very interesting. There is a drastic difference in not only design but data. Don't get me wrong, each report is different in it's own way, but it's just so interesting to see not only the progression of differences in his life each year but also how he has progressed in visually explaining this data through design and methods of data collection.

2005 Annual Report (January 8, 2006)

The 2005 Annual Report was released on January 8, 2006. It is a saddle stitch staple binding book of (20) 7.5in x 7.5in pages documenting his personal data from 2005. His intent was to share the content with friends and family but it blew up in popularity and there was a lot of demand for another. He used sources that were available at the end of the year such as lists, photos, calendars, browser history, and data from Last.fm. He then visualized the data by given them title pages that had images relating to the data, a consistent color scheme, graphs, lists, and charts.

You can view the whole report here.

2014 Annual Report (October 15, 2015)

The 2014 Annual Report was released on October 15, 2015. This is a book of (16) 8 x 10 inch pages that have sewn stitched binding. It's the tenth and last annual report in the series. He has more data inserted into this design than the first report and even shows where he received his data from. This report merges all the information collected from newly developed tracking software into one design that visually shows connections, context, and correlations.

You can view the full report here.

Some Other Annual Reports I Found To Be Visually Pleasing:

I like these because of the unique structure and layouts of visually explaining the data he has collected. You can find the rest of his works on his site: feltron.com


Related Works by Nicholas Felton:

1. Daytum (2008)

Daytum was an iphone app that Felton built with his friend Ryan Case. It was released August 29, 2008 and it's purpose was to track everyday data from users and automatically generated reports for them. It was the first step in creating a personal data tracker and he got this idea from his series of personal Annual Reports. Unfortunately the problem with this was the users could create their own fields of data which made it difficult for them to track everything that wanted to be tracked. It also made it difficult to share data with friends.

You can visit the project on his site here.

Below is a Vimeo demonstration of Daytum. You can also visit the site here.

2. Facebook Timeline (2011)

After Daytum, Felton helped create the Facebook timeline that we all saw back in 2011. It uses the same concept of collecting personal data but visualizes it on an actual timeline on one's profile page. One line with two columns continuously stretches as you scroll until you hit the date of birth. Each column has a post made by the user such as photos, videos, music, etc that can be shared as a personal data report. I completely forgot that Facebook had the timeline on everyone's profile and had no idea Felton was the reason it came to be. Looking back i'm thankful that Facebook did away with the timeline and replaced it with a memories feature. I think it's definitely easier to see a clean feed of posts on your profile with a daily notification that shows you past posts you've made and shared with friends and family.

Here is a Vimeo of the add for Facebook Timeline.


feltron.com (Nicholas Feltron's work)

https://infogram.com/page/data-visualization (What is data visualization)

https://www.import.io/post/what-is-data-visualization/ (What is data visualization)

https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/what-makes-a-good-data-visualization/ (What makes a good data visualization)

http://feltron.com/info.html (Nicholas Feltron Bio)

https://www.visualisingdata.com/resources/quotidian/#:~:text=Quotidian%20%2D%20Visualising%20Data&text=Quotidian%20is%20a%20new%20way%20to%20visualize%20time%20and%20events.&text=Quotidian%20works%20with%20your%20Web,link%20to%20events%20in%20timelines (Quotidian Data)

https://create.adobe.com/2016/3/16/designing_with_data_nicholas_felton.html (adobe article on Annual Reports)

https://www.last.fm/api/scrobbling (last.fm scrobbling)

http://feltron.com/Daytum.html (Feltron.com:Daytum)

https://daytum.com/ (The Daytum App)

https://vimeo.com/5351157 (Daytum Video)

https://www.fastcompany.com/1662984/daytum-iphone-app-turns-your-daily-life-into-infographics-video?_ga=2.214767959.1974524764.1599961616-166622737.1599961616 (Daytum Article)

https://vimeo.com/29701850 (Facebook Timeline)

https://www.fastcompany.com/1782328/how-infographics-guru-nicholas-felton-inspired-facebooks-timeline (Facebook Article)

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