Data is art

Our relationship with data is changing all of the time. This is nothing new, data has been captured, interpreted and used to develop products and services throughout history. Every step of life on earth has involved collecting and interpreting data, with almost every type of natural and man-made phenomenon being captured in some way.

The data buzz

Data is very much a buzz word these days, our obsession with understanding data, particularly large data sets, has created it’s own sub-culture and art forms, these are known as Information art, informatism and data art.

Human driven values

Before we dive in to what this art form looks like and how it’s created. We need to look at what drives us…the people making and interpreting the data. We are visual creatures, what we see influences our reaction and interaction in ways that go beyond every other sense. When we think about data, we often need some sort of visual to help us navigate the information.

We feel fine - Jonathan Harris and Spendar Kanvar

Jonathan Harris and Sepandar Kamvar, We Feel Fine, net mapping the net collecting Internet sentences beginning with “I feel” or “I am feeling.” Nearly 10 million feelings and more than two million blogs were collected.


What is data art?

Information and data art is inspired by and created from data using computer science, technology and artificial intelligence. There are obvious visual echoes to abstract art and minimalism but these art forms aren’t simply aesthetically pleasing, they provide insights and dialogue to some of the greatest challenges we face in society. They have digital depth and are the result of data and driven by data. The visualisation of these often complex activities are presented in ways that we have never seen before.


It's no surprise that many of these pieces of art are fluid, changing all the time as the data grows and new patterns develop, for this reason a lot of the people who are pioneering in this space, deliver it through video and on-screen motion graphics.

So here’s are a few examples of the beauty that can come from data. 

Peter Crnokrak – Love will tear us apart again

Peter Crnokrak data art


The piece maps all known cover versions of the iconic 1979 song by Joy Division. Spanning the 33 years since the record was released, the graph shows the subsequent 168 cover versions arranged in clockwise chronological space. The original 10 song variants recorded by the band occupy the centre top portion of the graph and are radially flanked by the numerous covers. The central cluster is a comparative waveform analysis of the three studio versions (outer ring) recorded by Joy Division and the two posthumous remixes (inner ring) released in 1995. Interestingly, the visualisation shows the inherent variation in song structure from recording to recording as the band engineered the particular sound they wanted the song to express.

This is a stunning tribute to an iconic track, blending the best data analysis and interpretation with the timeless aesthetic of vinyl and printed literature. What's not to like? Check out the site.

Jason Salavon

A prolific data visualisation artist, Salavon’s work crosses many boundaries and features a wide range of media including static, interactive and video formats. Here’s a couple of our favourites…

Jason Salavon data art 1


Go to the site here and you can zoom in and out to fully appreciate the intricacy of his work.




This is a collective of artists led by Golan Levin, who's work focuses on multi sensory experiences, he describes these as, "...the design of systems for the creation, manipulation and performance of simultaneous image and sound, as part of a more general inquiry into the formal language of interactivity, and of nonverbal communications protocols in cybernetic systems".

We'll let the work speak for itself, here's one of our favourites...


Footfalls 2006 Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman


Where did this start? And who was responsible?

We are sure you will have heard her name, Florence Nightingale, but did you know that she was one of the first people to use data visualisation techniques in her work?


Florence Nightingale data visualisation


Our admiration of her was already high but it just moved up to a whole new level - there's a great article from FastCompany about it here. These illustrations not only look beautiful but they are the beginning of the data as art journey.


Want to know more?

About the artists and the technology that they use? Well, there’s an entire section of the Ted site dedicated to the creation of data art

Ted talks - data as art