Peek Behind the Sneaks: #ProjectLincoln— Super Powered Data Visualization

It’s an understatement to say that we live in a world of data. It informs practically everything we experience in the world, from headlines in the news to the world of business. The tools we use for data analysis and exploration have become increasingly sophisticated while the explanatory tools designers and business people need to visualize and communicate with data haven’t changed much for 20 years.

Well known UI researcher and visualization expert, Bret Victor, has pointed out that we currently have one of three options to create a data visualization.

But, each of these options have some pretty limiting downsides. Spreadsheet charts are never exactly what you want and tweaking them is hard, drawing data accurately is time-consuming, and programming is really hard. None of these are a great options for designers.

At MAX Sneaks, Bernard Kerr of Adobe’s Design Lab showed #ProjectLincoln, a prototype that changes the way designers make charts. Rather than starting with a tool that grabs data and spits out a visualization, #ProjectLincoln’s tools give designers the power to sketch first and then bind these shapes to data. This means properties such as size, color, location, or even text can be mapped to data.

In the demo, Bernard imports a spreadsheet, then binds the values to graphics. In less than four minutes he builds 14 data visualizations with total creative freedom. Completed visualizations can also become templates for different data sets or can work as the starting point for a new design. “It’s about increasing your design velocity and creative control while compressing the time it takes to create beautiful data visualizations. Tasks that used to take days or even weeks, now take just a few minutes,” says Bernard.

Watch Bernard build 14 data visualizations in less than 4 minutes to make this infographic poster about open water marathon swimmer Kim Chambers.

Creating new technology experiences is a lifelong passion for Bernard. He started his career in architecture, but quickly realized that he wanted to spend more time making compelling designs and less time keeping an eye on contractors. This led him to the Royal College of Art in London where he studied “Computer Related Design”. There, he found his calling designing intuitive and immersive user experiences. Before Adobe, he worked on a diverse set of projects at IBM, Yahoo!, Jawbone, and Microsoft, from rethinking the email experience to instigating social bookmarking to pioneering interfaces for audio and augmented reality.

The common thread in his work is a desire to create user experiences that are engaging, fluid, and powerful. Lincoln brings that same philosophy to the needs of designers doing data visualization. “The ultimate goal of #ProjectLincoln,” he says, “is to give creatives new super powers that will change the way they make charts and data visualizations.”

This story is part of a series that will give you a closer look at the people and technology that were showcased as part of Adobe Sneaks. Read other Peek Behind the Sneaks stories here.