The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Darjan Hil ‘The Art of Visualising Complexity’

John Carter
April 25, 2023
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Darjan Hil ‘The Art of Visualising Complexity’

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A number of months ago, I was researching for my keynote in Scotland in June this year, and I stumbled across the work of Superdot studio in Switzerland. I was blown away by all the amazing work that they had done and was thrilled to see that they were in the process of publishing their book, Visualising Complexity - A Modular Information Handbook. I purchased it and from the moment it arrived on my desk, it has not been too far away. I show it to people on Zoom calls and any of the trainings that I have been doing. I have recommended it to many of my peers. I feel so lucky to have this podcast, as it allows me to reach out to people I truly respect and connect with them over a conversation, and I did just that with this book.

I connected with Darjan, and we had an amazing conversation. We explored the process that both he and his partner, Nicole follow when visualising complexity. One of the things that struck me the most from this conversation, was just how analogue the process of brilliance is. A lot of what I took away from this conversation was just how much space and air that Darjan and leave in their work, to let things sit, and include elements of structured exploration before arriving on a visual language and approach to their work. Too often, I find we (and I include myself in this) have tools in place and in mind when we are researching. As in, many of us know and fall into that category of “well, we will be creating a journey map, or a blueprint, as we know this worked for X project”. This isn’t what you hear in this conversation.

We talk about the process deeply. How they move from chaos to simplicity.

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Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Gerry Scullion: What is it about visualization that you feel that the brain can interpret that information? What's easier? In terms of the kind of the psycho nature behind it, what is it about the person who draws it and gets it on paper? They feel like the increased capacity of understanding the problem. Do you have any thoughts on what it is about the human mind that just drawing allows us to understand things a little bit deeper?

[00:00:27] Darjan Hil: I think it's a really nice question because it has so many layer. And I just can really talk about my experiences with visualizations. Yeah. And the first step is about bringing out the ideas and bringing them to paper, which means that I'm taking time, I'm taking time to think, to reflect and thinking about.

[00:00:49] Darjan Hil: The connections and kind of a, not linear, but kind of a dynamic way.

[00:00:57] Gerry Scullion: Hello and welcome to Bringing Design Closer On. [00:01:00] This is h cd. My name is Jerry s Scalian, and I'm the founder of, this is h cd. I'm a designer, educator, design coach, and podcaster based on the wonderful. City of Dublin, Ireland, and our goal here is to have conversations that inspire and help move the dial forward for organizations to become more human-centered in their approach to solving complex business and societal problems.

[00:01:21] Gerry Scullion: Now, as many of you know at this stage, I work on these episodes in these podcasts as a labor of love. I love sharing the work of others, and I know many of you enjoy the work that I do too, cuz I see all the wonderful reviews. If you want to help support me and business CD maybe you might consider by becoming a patron.

[00:01:39] Gerry Scullion: It's only, it's under two euros per month. My goal with having this model is to meet the costs to produce everything. We're still miles away from doing some, but if you want and learn more, maybe just check out. This is a Now, a number of months ago, I was researching for my keynote that I'm giving in UX Scotland.

[00:01:57] Gerry Scullion: This. And I stumbled across the work of [00:02:00] Super Studio in Switzerland, and I was blown away by all the amazing work that they have on their website, and I was honestly so thrilled. I was so happy to see that they were in the process of publishing their book titled Visualizing Complexity and Modular Information Handbook.

[00:02:15] Gerry Scullion: I purchased it and from the moment it arrived on my desk, and I'm not choking when I say this, it has never been too far away from my hands. Feels just absolutely beautiful to hold it in your hands. It's really, really, it's a rich texture on the book. I show it to many people on my Zoom calls every single day, and I've showed it on many of the trainings that I've given over the last number of.

[00:02:36] Gerry Scullion: I've recommended it to many of my peers. Why? Because I just believe that this book is absolutely beautiful and it should be something that I think many of you'll be interested in. Now, I feel so lucky to have this podcast as it allows me to reach out to people that I truly respect and connect with them over a conversation.

[00:02:53] Gerry Scullion: And I did just that with this book and this episode I connected with Darienne and we had an amazing [00:03:00] conversation. Now we explored the. That both he and his partner Nicole, follow and visualizing complexity. Now, one of the things that struck me most from this conversation was just how analog the process of brilliance is.

[00:03:13] Gerry Scullion: A lot of what I took away from this conversation was just how much space and air that Darienne and Nicole leave in their work. To let things sit, to reflect and include elements of structured exploration before arriving on a visual language and approach to their work. Too often I find we, and I include myself and these folks, have tools in place and in mind.

[00:03:35] Gerry Scullion: When we are researching that we always fall back to, as in many of us know, that we'll fall into that carrier of. Well, we'll be creating a journey map or a blueprint as we know that this worked on X projects before. This isn't what you'll hear in this conversation. We talk about the process deeply, how they move from chaos to simplicity.

[00:03:55] Gerry Scullion: It's a fantastic episode and I hope you enjoy it. Let's get into it. [00:04:00] Darien, very warm. Welcome to, to, this is Eight City. I'm delighted to have you on the show. Um, we were just chatting there, having the, the crack, as we say in Ireland about, uh, everything to do with the wonderful book that I managed to get my hands on a couple of weeks ago.

[00:04:19] Gerry Scullion: Um, I, I bought it. I actually bought it myself. Uh, I saw it and I was like, This is one that I need to have, but, um, Darien Hil. Very warm. Welcome. Anyway, but let's start off and, and tell us a little bit about yourself and where you're from.

[00:04:33] Darjan Hil: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Um, okay. Um, about myself. So I would say I was born in a country which doesn't exist anymore, which is, um, former Yugoslavia.

[00:04:46] Darjan Hil: Okay. And, uh, grew up in Vienna and, uh, finished. My master's, my first master in business informatics and worked for. [00:05:00] IBM and, uh, had a great job as a student to write, um, the, the meeting, the, the decisions of the meetings, which were, you can imagine quite boring. And, um, we had the development team, which was in, uh, another, a different country, which was kind of different.

[00:05:23] Darjan Hil: And, uh, then I realized that my communication skills were not really good, uh, because the things that the developers were programming were not the ones what the client wanted, so, mm-hmm. Actually, that was my entry point to visualizations that I, I, I just realized it's much easier to write down the requirements, uh, and draw.

[00:05:47] Darjan Hil: Just with some lines and boxes and sketches. Yeah. Um, and there was, anyways, always this magical moment that as soon as something is kind of externalized and put to paper, it [00:06:00] gets kind of clear and people start to communicate more about the thing. Yeah. And um, and then I started scanning my sketches. Uh, they were not good, but I, they were just sketches and, uh, somehow the whole.

[00:06:16] Darjan Hil: Cycle of kind of the, the loops of, uh, bug fixing were, uh, smaller and um mm-hmm. That made me think that I should maybe study or kind of, I was actually think asking myself, why are we not taught in any kind of study program, business informatics history? Why are we not taught? Why do we not learn to. To express ourselves.

[00:06:47] Darjan Hil: And uh, yeah. Somehow that made me, afterwards I landed in Switzerland. I worked for a bank, but I still wa was always thinking about this moment of drawing [00:07:00] and um mm-hmm. Somehow this graphic facilitation and graphic recording was not the thing I really, aesthetically I didn't like that. Yeah. So I applied to study again and that's how I.

[00:07:14] Darjan Hil: They, um, accepted me at the University of, uh, design and and Arts in Basel. Mm-hmm. With this long tradition of Swiss design, anti typography. Yeah. And, uh, I had the honor to study and to do a master's. And that's where Nicole and me met. And from that moment on, we started doing everything and working absolutely in the direction of information design.

[00:07:42] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. And like the book that you've created for anyone who hasn't, uh, looked at the show notes yet, is visualizing complexity. It's a modular information design handbook. Um, and one of the things that when I, whenever I opened up the package and I held it in my hands, I. This, this is [00:08:00] not an ordinary book.

[00:08:01] Gerry Scullion: Um, you can get books out there. Many books and book Depository or Amazon and you open up, it just doesn't feel the same as this book. This book is like, it feels very, very, I wanna use the word sensual, but it feels just really rich and very well thought out. And when anyone buy, anyone buys it. They hold it in their hands.

[00:08:25] Gerry Scullion: They should see the, the, the craft that has gone into this. It's just a stunning book, uh, and not just stunning in terms of it looks beautiful, but the content and the way it's structured is really, really well done. So I know, um, Nicole Lachenmeyer, who is the other part of in Basel, It's a beautiful book and I feel like I do know you a little bit when you were telling that story there a little bit like a good visualization.

[00:08:53] Gerry Scullion: At the back of the book, it shows the timelines of how everything is all connected and how you guys met [00:09:00] and studied together and formed Super Dots. So what, what is it about visualization? That you feel that the brain can interpret that information? What's easier, um, in terms of the kind of the psycho nature behind it?

[00:09:16] Gerry Scullion: What is it about the, the person who draws it and gets it on paper, they feel like they, the, the increased capacity of understanding the problem. Um, do you have any thoughts on what it is about the human mind that just drawing allows us to understand? Things a little bit deeper.

[00:09:37] Darjan Hil: Yeah, I can just, yeah, I think it's a really nice question because it has so many layers and I just can really talk about my experiences with visualizations.

[00:09:48] Darjan Hil: Yeah. And there the first step is about bringing out ideas and bringing them to. [00:10:00] Which means that I'm taking time, I'm taking time to think, to reflect and thinking about the connections and kind of a, not linear, but kind of a dynamic way, how things are connected. So that's kind of a, like a yoga, like a step of meditation and bringing that to paper.

[00:10:19] Darjan Hil: So that's the first step of slowing down and that's why actually I always talk about kind of the way, way we work and. Maybe the story behind this book, every page that you see in your hand has been done by hand. So, okay. All these 200 pages and all the examples and every little piece has been drawn either by Nicole or by me in a lot of iterations.

[00:10:44] Darjan Hil: So we have around 800 pages from these 200 pages in our cupboard. Um, so that was, I would say that's the first quality of. Making sketches and drawing and [00:11:00] kind of making variations. The second step is that making a variation, which means that as soon as you have the first sketch, you have an idea for the second one, and as soon as you have the second and the third, you realize, You underst start understanding the, the, the, the content you are sketching.

[00:11:18] Darjan Hil: So kind of like the stupid, stupid kind of cases that you say, if you start drawing one flower, the first drawing of the flower will be the obvious one. The second you will maybe see some highlights. Of light. The third one, you will see shadows, the fourth one. So you, every time you will understand something more about the flower.

[00:11:39] Darjan Hil: Yeah. So kind of redrawing your understanding is bigger. And then on the other hand, what every designer knows is assume as you have a sketch, somehow people there to give their opinion. Normally if something is in text or something is [00:12:00] hidden in text or hidden in a database or whatever, people normally say, yeah, yeah, that's okay.

[00:12:06] Darjan Hil: For me, kind of I don't understand coding or something anyway, so it's good for me. Yeah, assume as it gets visual, people have an opinion. Which is not always easy for designers kind of to deal with that opinion, to like, okay. Yeah. Um, and uh, sometimes these opinions are going the direction that you say, I like it or I don't like it.

[00:12:27] Darjan Hil: You're like, mm, okay. It's not about liking, but, okay. So I think there is this human nature, um, which is coming into the game as soon as you have drawn something that people then, Have an opinion, and, uh, they, they, they have a connection. Yeah,

[00:12:49] Gerry Scullion: there's a really interesting quote, which I have in one of my courses, which I've just brought up by William Playfair.

[00:12:54] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. I dunno if you know William Playfair. The, the, uh, yeah. The creator of the, the bar chart and the line chart and the pie [00:13:00] chart and the quote is, tables are by no means a good form of conveying information. Making an appeal to the eye when proposition and magnitude are concerned is the best and readiness method of conveying a distinct.

[00:13:14] Gerry Scullion: And it's, you know, people gonna go, oh, that's, that's a relatively, you know, recent thought, but that was from the 1890s. Mm-hmm. So when, when you think about how, how long we've been talking about this thing, about making, um, visual elements of complex systems, it's been around for centuries at this stage. Um, so the, the, the type of illustrations.

[00:13:42] Gerry Scullion: Most people, um, listening to this podcast would be familiar would be things like journey maps and service blueprints and, um, just research structures, you know, affinity mapping and so forth, but, In your book, one of the things that struck me was [00:14:00] the sequencing and how you go about making complexity, um, a little bit easier to manage and visualize.

[00:14:07] Gerry Scullion: Um, are you able to talk a little bit more around your process on how you approach complex, um, systems and visuali visualizing

[00:14:17] Darjan Hil: those? Mm-hmm. I would just kind of, I would answer it very fast with. Word with an open mind. Okay. Uh, so we approach complexity and open mind, which in the end, which means that, and also what we were trying, I mean, we, we were discussing a lot, if we should make a book at all.

[00:14:39] Darjan Hil: Um,

[00:14:41] Gerry Scullion: what was the risk resistance behind the Italian? Why, why would you second that? There's so many books,

[00:14:46] Darjan Hil: you know, there's so many. There's so many good books and they, there are books from Edward Tufty. They're old books, they're kind of old masters, which are Yeah, like more than 100 years old. Yeah. Um, you just have to look into the books and you're like, okay, this is [00:15:00] amazing.

[00:15:00] Darjan Hil: So we were really, I mean, we are, we're a couple and we start to discuss and we are very critical on each other. So I said, okay, we should do a book. And Nico was saying, no, we should not do a book who, who gives us. Kind of credit to do a book. So we were, that was the first point. But then there was this moment where we said, actually, and that's coming to the complexity.

[00:15:28] Darjan Hil: There is no book, or we don't know a book, which is, so there are many books which are giving you advices with dos and don'ts. Yeah. So this, if you have this, do that. If you'd have that, this is the. Uh, chart type for this problem. This is the right solution if you have that one. Yeah. But actually, um, what we learned in school and the way our kind of mind at least works in our studio [00:16:00] is that there is no right and wrong.

[00:16:03] Darjan Hil: So, um, or let's say there is no general. For, for in our philosophy, there is no general, um, how would you say rule? Yeah. Because sometimes people say red is an alarm color. I mean, tell that to the ubs. Their corporate color is red, their logo is red from the bank, so you have to work with red. Um, so I would say, Our kind of really intention was that we said we want to show the beauty of experimentation.

[00:16:39] Darjan Hil: We want to bring down the recipe of making visualization to really the little pieces and we. Don't say which one is to be used in a certain situation. We say, make your own experience. Try it out, show it to your friends, show it to somebody and let them judge if [00:17:00] they can read it. Let them observe them if it's interesting.

[00:17:05] Darjan Hil: So that's actually the general approach and the process behind the whole thing.

[00:17:10] Gerry Scullion: So it's iterative is what you're saying, like that whole process of putting it in front of people and seeing if it makes sense. Is that right? Is that, is that your approach?

[00:17:19] Darjan Hil: So, and playful, so what is and playful, the fun, the fun factor is somehow really important.

[00:17:25] Darjan Hil: Yeah,

[00:17:25] Gerry Scullion: it's, um, the bit that really kind of struck me around the book was the, the narrative that goes through it is the family. Okay. This, this family, um, of do you wanna talk to us about where this family came from and give us the origins because when I was, it's, it's in some, at the start of the book, you, you do say it's not meant to be read from front to back.

[00:17:48] Gerry Scullion: Okay. It's, it's more of a reference piece. But then when you start mentioning the family, I start just feel somewhat kind of interested in, in this family. And I was like, well, I'm gonna keep reading to see where, [00:18:00] how, how they've evolved over the generat. So, um, I did find myself reading chapters. Um, so maybe talk to us a little bit more around.

[00:18:11] Gerry Scullion: Where that came from. Okay. Yeah, because it's a really nice anchor point in a book. Um, that's what I'm saying. It's not a case of this is a map, this is how we did it. It's, it is a step by step process of how you actually, um, sort of attributed the, the data, the raw data, and took it forward. So maybe talk to us a little bit more around the origins of that whole kind of thought process.

[00:18:34] Darjan Hil: Yeah. So the origin of that, um, is that, um, we started. With the book with, uh, in the Swiss Mountains, we said, okay, let's just kind of hide for four weeks and think about what is the book about. It sounds really idyllic. Yeah. And um, and you have to know that Nicole is a perfectionist when it comes to design.

[00:18:57] Darjan Hil: So she, yeah, [00:19:00] she, she thinks about everything. We call her, we call her sometimes that our typography, police, the kinda goes in everything, and I'm the perfectionist when it comes to content and kind of to, to, to the, to the red thread, which goes from the beginning to the end. And, um, for me, I, so I mean, Nicole and we were teaching information designs since years, and we always have the problem that students, which are in their bachelor years, like first year, second year bachelors, that they're struggling with abstract data to translate the data, let's say about forests and the density of a forest.

[00:19:46] Darjan Hil: And, uh, in, uh, the volume of the forest that, that they're having difficult times to translate that number into a mental image, into [00:20:00] afterwards, a visualization. And there are books. You will find books which take in every chapter or in every visualization. They take different data. So kind of you a, a different dataset.

[00:20:13] Darjan Hil: So kind of the one graph is working with climate, the other graph is working with, I don't know, population and so on. So every time you read that book, you have to first start thinking about that dataset and say, okay, what does it mean climate? And then you have to, you have to decode the first, the data and the image, and then start understanding.

[00:20:35] Darjan Hil: So I said to Nicole when we were, uh, hiking in the mountains, I said, it would be really cool to find that one universal data set that every human being knows. And then we were thinking about a lot of things, and at some point I just said, okay, everybody has a. Yeah. [00:21:00] Every human has age. Every human was born somewhere.

[00:21:04] Darjan Hil: Every BU human died somewhere. Yes. And every human has a gender. And then we started kind of constructing and deciding on one dataset, uh, that could go ho over the whole book. Mm-hmm. And, and then we needed, and then we started kind of designing that family. Based on really statistics. So actually I looked up the statistics of the past century.

[00:21:33] Darjan Hil: I looked up what is the most frequent name in the British or kind of English speaking area. Okay. And the one from the German. So actually I took the names, it's kind of the statistics behind. And then, That's how actually the whole family data set.

[00:21:47] Gerry Scullion: Ah, very cool. Yeah. Now, now one of the things that I sometimes find myself falling into the trap of, if I'm researching and I'm, I've kind of gone through the, the data set and I'm [00:22:00] trying to pull out the key quotes and, you know, the.

[00:22:03] Gerry Scullion: For things that are wrong with the service or things that are going well with the service, it almost like, it feels like, okay, well I know at some point I'm probably gonna do a journey map and I'm gonna do maybe a blueprint and I, I might do, I fall into the habit of using the same kind of templates, the same structures to visualize the, the data.

[00:22:25] Gerry Scullion: What struck. About this book in particular, and I don't mean to become a salesman, but I just keep on talking about how beautiful this book is. But do you have a set, a really broad set of templates that you sometimes fall back into and do you have names for those sets? And if so, where do you get them from?

[00:22:45] Gerry Scullion: How, how can I increase and how can our listeners increase the visual language that we're using to, um, to visualize the complexity that we find ourselves researching.

[00:22:56] Darjan Hil: Yeah. I think it somehow that's, that question [00:23:00] going is going a little bit into breaking the patterns that people kind of create. Mm-hmm.

[00:23:04] Darjan Hil: Um, or maybe I misunderstood the question, but I I, what I would understand is that yes. When people see graphs and when they see possible solutions, or if they see time, let's say the, that there is data with time, uh, that you will, I immediately think about the timeline and uh, if you think about that there, if there is data about cities, you will immediately think about, A world map.

[00:23:36] Darjan Hil: Yeah. Even though you know that kind of, as soon as you start putting your pins on a world map and you are talking about Switzerland, uh, the density of the pins will be very high compared to Russia, which has a very big surface on your paper. Yeah. Um, and basically what we try and also what we [00:24:00] try to do with the student, Is the first sketches they create is the things they know and the things they frequently use.

[00:24:09] Darjan Hil: Mm-hmm. And then we ask them to break that pattern to say, okay, do you have some other ideas? Yeah. What would happen if you kind of, you would not be allowed to use a map at all? For, for mapping, for kind of cryptography. How would that map look like? Yeah, so kind of, and then looking, and then why we did this is to say there are so many things, so kind of, there are so many possibilities.

[00:24:36] Darjan Hil: Think about these little pieces, the elements, and how can you combine them in a crazy way, risk it, risk something new and see if it.

[00:24:45] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, well, what I'm hearing there is there's, you, you're treating every data set as a unique opportunity to visualize it. Whereas for people like myself and service designers, we kind of have a suite of [00:25:00] tools that we, we tap into, much like business people love to use pie charts and um, line graphs and so, so forth, but, Your approach is, and if I'm understanding this correctly, yourself and Nicole in particular is it's pen and paper and it's back to grassroots in terms of how we approach, what is the best way to visualize this versus the, um, the, the kind of off the shelf and then interpret it.

[00:25:28] Gerry Scullion: And I think that speed to visualize is something that came through in the book. The speed to visualize complexity and the, the kind of export functionality that we have in software is doing us a disservice because it's not actually providing us with the richest opportunity to visualize what's actually happening.

[00:25:50] Gerry Scullion: Am I speaking at a line here? Is that, is that kind of I agree and completely. That's I'm saying. Yeah. So, so in that, what, what are the skills that you [00:26:00] teach, um, in information design then? Because people like myself would really love to learn how you got from, say, when you were working at IBM and you were.

[00:26:10] Gerry Scullion: You know, kind of visualizing those meetings. What are the things, and if maybe we could have a, a five, a list of five things that you'd look for in, um, what would make really good information Designer

[00:26:25] Darjan Hil: first, a tidied, clean, well structured table.

[00:26:30] Gerry Scullion: Okay, let's talk about that one. Okay. Because that's everyone.

[00:26:34] Gerry Scullion: Everyone is leaning in to their cars, they're driving, they're like a clean table. Now you're not talking about a kitchen table, we're talking about a table of data. Okay. Exactly. That would go, if you take that one from very. Face on, you know, the quality of the research is impacted. Like, if you've got a really bad process about, uh, you know, creating the data, you're gonna get a really crappy d uh, table in the end.

[00:26:59] Gerry Scullion: So [00:27:00] h how, how do you work to ensure that you've got a really quality, high quality data set in your table?

[00:27:06] Darjan Hil: So, um, there is actually no project where we do not have. To reorganize and clean the data that we get. So kind of we get them, but then kind of we have to, the first thing is what people probably everybody knows is that you go in Microsoft Excel or something and then you kind of throw away all the formatting, kind of all the yellows and the blues and the uh, and the font sizes and just bring them what to kind of this, uh, raw format and then, Observing kind of what dimensions are, kind of what columns and what roles you have and if that makes sense, and how are they actually nested?

[00:27:53] Darjan Hil: That kind of, kind of in what way? Uh, and if it makes sense, and actually we [00:28:00] very often send the, the, the spreadsheet kind of the, the, the Excel sheet. We send it back to our client and say, please, there are a lot of gaps. Could you. Again, go over your data. Uh, we highlighted for you the kind of the our questions.

[00:28:19] Darjan Hil: And in the end we meet one or two rounds of data cleaning and also content wise, cleaning. Because at that moment we ask ourself, okay, what are possible perspectives we can take to make that visualization? Um, So that, that for sure is, that's actually the, the yellow chapter of the book where yeah, where I put a lot of effort in kind of explaining that data is not only data, so kind of data are perspectives on your, I, I said it's this kind of cube and kind of what perspective do you have towards that?[00:29:00]

[00:29:00] Gerry Scullion: So in the, say you've got a really clean table, you've got an opportunity then to weave a narrative through that, that table, like you, the patterns that you're starting to observe, who is best placed to design or define those narratives? Does that come from the client or does that come from yourself?

[00:29:20] Gerry Scullion: Because you know, and I know there's many ways to interpret the data set. Depending on the objectives.

[00:29:27] Darjan Hil: So once we observe, let's say, different angles of storytelling mm-hmm. We bring them in very raw sketches to paper. Okay. And then with these sketches, We go to the client, we call that the clarification meeting.

[00:29:48] Darjan Hil: So we go to clarify the kind of the content. And the reason we do that really on paper is it's, it looks and it has has to have [00:30:00] that feeling of work in progress. Yeah, because if it's, if it's still in Excel, people talk about that one, the functional side, if it's done already and put into a template, a perfect looking graph template, even though you, you can tell hundred times to your client, no, no, no, no, no.

[00:30:19] Darjan Hil: It's working progress. We are still in working, but it looks too good. That's why we really, it has to. Like a hand drawn stretch sketch so that we can talk about really the story we want. Kind of tell together with the

[00:30:35] Gerry Scullion: client. So in, in that sense, there's, there's probably quite a lot of bias that could be brought into that because the, the client looks at it and goes, listen, we're not that corrupt.

[00:30:46] Gerry Scullion: Um mm. We're trying to, we're trying to reform ourselves, so that's not the story we want to tell. So there's always. Yes, I'm looking at Exxon and all the oil companies, like, no, we really do care about fossil fuel. [00:31:00] Um, or we don't care about fossil fuel, should I say, but yeah, so so you're at that point you keep it low fidelity.

[00:31:05] Gerry Scullion: I love that. Okay. Right. So we've covered off the, the high quality table is, is one of the things that Dian is like, he can put his head in his pillow when he is going to sleep tonight and he going, okay, tomorrow's gonna be a good day. The table is clean. Exactly. So what. Second thing that you think that would make a really good information designer.

[00:31:23] Gerry Scullion: Um, so the ability to have a good, clean table, number one. What would the second thing be? Darion,

[00:31:30] Darjan Hil: I would say to be brave enough. Um, even though of time pressure, because a lot of times you have time pressure, so the reason people tend to maybe go very fast to work on the computer and or to use templates is because you have time pressure or budget pressure.

[00:31:48] Darjan Hil: Yeah. So making a cup of a good cup of coffee sitting down. Giving yourself two hours of time listening to music and [00:32:00] starting to think about possible solutions and drawings and going, being brave enough to go into something completely, maybe crazy or which doesn't make sense, and then by having different variations, then you can see.

[00:32:17] Darjan Hil: Okay. The one extreme site, which will probably not work. And the other one is kind of the obvious side. Everybody knows and where is on that scale? Where are the other ones and what are the benefits of it? So kind of, yeah, looking at what you have. And the, for us, it's very important to lay out all the sketches next to each other.

[00:32:45] Darjan Hil: So we have big walls and, um, we put them all, always, the whole history, the whole process is on the wall because then automatically you start seeing patterns kind of, if you look at one thing [00:33:00] at, at the time alone. You are just at that one problem. If you have a lot of problems next to each other, then you are not afraid anymore.

[00:33:09] Darjan Hil: Yeah.

[00:33:10] Gerry Scullion: Um, so bravery. Bravery is probably what we call that, like bra brave to block out time to explore. Um, and then brave to give your time to absorb and, um, and, and really connect and see. Um, can you think of the third one? If we were gonna say, well, we'll do, I know I said five, but we'll do three. Okay. So the clean table bravery be the second one.

[00:33:35] Gerry Scullion: What would the third one be?

[00:33:37] Darjan Hil: Um, probably at that point comes kind of after the bravery comes. You should probably curiosity because at that point you will be like, Hmm, I think I discovered something. Maybe I need to research more. There is that step of curiosity. Ah, and, and looking kind of, does it really make sense?

[00:33:58] Darjan Hil: Can it be that that simple [00:34:00] solution would solve problem? Um, yeah, I love that. And I think that's, that's the turning point. And then you have to sell it to your. Mm. Yeah. They have to like it. You have to approve it and say, okay, that's it. Yeah. And then comes the ne the, yeah. The kind of realization second.

[00:34:21] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So how often would you be in a, in a situation when you're, um, when you're doing this, you might have to go back to research and conduct more research to, to get a better outcome, that iter iterative process, would you go right back to square one in terms of alternative research methods and stuff?

[00:34:42] Darjan Hil: Yeah. Going back. Going back to zero actually never happens. Kind of to to, to square one, but, mm. Because every time, I always tend to say that kind of in the beginning, VMware, if you start working with a data set or [00:35:00] kind of. A strategy or a concept from a company. Hmm. Uh, you have very little knowledge and you just see kind of that problem, and by working and researching your understanding actually of the whole problem.

[00:35:18] Darjan Hil: I would say kind of the, the, the, the closer you are to the solution or kind of the more you know about the solution, the more you know about your. Because actually just when the, when the project is finished, Then you will be able to say, ah, now I can tell you what that kind of, the big challenge of in this project was.

[00:35:41] Darjan Hil: But you can tell it just actually in the end, you, it's, it's gonna be very difficult to really say it in the beginning because

[00:35:47] Gerry Scullion: you're a lot closer to it. You've examined it, you've explored, and you've done. You know, 20, 30, 40,000 micro decisions to, to get to that point. And yeah, that's the whole beauty of, I guess, [00:36:00] prototyping.

[00:36:00] Gerry Scullion: You're spending a lot of time in prototyping and that hand to mind connection is, is so rich. Um, I have a question for you there. Um, with the book title, it's visualizing complexity, why complexity and why, why not say visualizing data? What was it about the word complexity? You know, made you included in the title

[00:36:24] Darjan Hil: because, because we don't even have then that many data visualizations projects in, in our field.

[00:36:37] Darjan Hil: So actually 50% of our project is about can you visualize, uh, this concept? Can you visualize this strategy? It's, it's text. Yeah. So, um, bringing it down just to numbers would have not covered the whole field. Yeah. It's more like, it can be text [00:37:00] and out of text. You have to find a way to explain the text or the concept or the strategy or whatever, or it's in the numbers so you're explaining and making data visualization.

[00:37:11] Darjan Hil: But in both cases, It has to do something with complexity. So that's why we said it's visualizing complexity.

[00:37:19] Gerry Scullion: I love it. Um, there's another thing that I wanted to ask you a little bit more around, was there, number one was obviously the, the clean table as you'd say. Mm-hmm. Um, how do you feel about ai. And the ability to, to generate visualizations on the fly, um, and people leaning into it in a, in a big way to, to hope to answer all the world's problems.

[00:37:44] Gerry Scullion: What, what are your thoughts about that? And its interconnectedness with the clean table.

[00:37:50] Darjan Hil: I would say to these people, good luck with that. Um, oh, I mean, I see, I see that, I see this enormous [00:38:00] acceleration and, um, I that, um, combinations which have not been there in very little time and taking all the resources in the internet and combining them into a new fusion of.

[00:38:18] Darjan Hil: I see that. Um, I think we have to find a way that our daily work has a compo, so that's why I said maybe before brave. Yeah. We have to be brave enough. Yeah. To resist to the pressure of our client or. To find a way, even in the most boring content and data set to have, find fun with that and yeah, to take time to work with that, to find an interesting angle.

[00:38:55] Darjan Hil: And that kind of is, [00:39:00] is a very good feeling, like a body feeling after a day that you created. 20 different drawings and sketches. Mm-hmm. And that makes, and that makes you think, and that kind of brings this slow kind of, it's not really slow, but kind of, let's say this, uh, slow work, uh, brings you to reflect, kind of gives you time to think.

[00:39:25] Darjan Hil: Does it really make sense what we are doing here? Yeah. So that, that brings you to that kind of crucial questions where at some point maybe you really have that simple, simple graph where people like, why did you need three months to make that graph? Exactly. Um, because, uh, with Chad, g p t or something, I can do that in three seconds.

[00:39:48] Darjan Hil: That's nice. Yeah, but the, it's also about me, my process. Yeah. And it's also about having a reason to live. Having a reason to work. Yeah. And if we, uh, [00:40:00] externalize everything to others, then we don't have anything. So that's why I would say, um, I still, I still believe that we will come up with much better solutions if we have time to think.

[00:40:12] Darjan Hil: Yeah,

[00:40:12] Gerry Scullion: absolutely. Dari. I could speak to you for about five or six hours, uh, nonstop about this stuff, but you know, we, we, we, we wanna try and wrap up the, the conversation within 40 minutes on this is eight city, just people I know. They, they like the, the, the short synopsis of what we're trying to do. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put a link to

[00:40:36] Gerry Scullion: Your studio in, in Basel, uh, into the show notes of this episode as well. Put a link to the book as well, if possible. Folks, we're gonna buy the book, buy it from Super Studio. Don't buy it from, um, that, uh, big book company. I can't remember what it's called. The, it's like after a forest or something. I can't remember.

[00:40:56] Gerry Scullion: My, my Mind's come blank and Money Token by direct from the authors if you [00:41:00] can possibly do that. Um, but Darren, if people wanna reach out to you, um, what's the best way for people? To get in touch

[00:41:06] Darjan Hil: with you easy. I'm actually answering a lot of, uh, emails and social media things. I, I'm trying to be very kind of 24 hour answer.

[00:41:18] Darjan Hil: Type. So yeah, there is a, on the website, there is an email, um, or of a social media or anything. So just kind of, you will find me, I will answer on

[00:41:29] Gerry Scullion: LinkedIn. Yeah, absolutely. We'll put a, we'll put a link to your LinkedIn anyway. But Darien, listen, look, thank you so much for your time. Let me grill you about the book.

[00:41:36] Gerry Scullion: Best of luck with it. And also to Nicole as well. Stay in touch, um, big fans of you over here at this society.

[00:41:42] Darjan Hil: Thank you.

[00:41:46] Gerry Scullion: And there you go folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode and if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is hate where you can learn more about what we are up to and also explore our courses while through there. Thanks again for listening.[00:42:00]

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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