Nicholas Rougeux is a web designer and artist from Chicago. Simplicity and clarity play key roles in his creations. His fascination with digital art has lead to a healthy obsession with data and fractal art, which has been sold and published publications around the world.
Hi Nicholas! How would you describe your work?
Hi! My latest work is the exploration of data as art and the emotional connections we make with everyday topics. I enjoy looking at the repetative nature of data and the patterns that emerge from them.
Your posters are unique, how did you came up with this technique?
Each of my data art projects was developed with the techniques needed to manipulate the data. Some require tools to parse text like in Between the Words while others require basic spreadsheets to manage the data like in Colors of World Flags while still others require GIS software to extract geographic shapes used in Routelines.
What’s the process behind your work? Do you use specific softwares?
The process varies depending on what’s needed as a final result. The process always starts by something piquing my interest and using a variety of tools to explore the data. Sometimes, a simple spreadsheet and creating basic bar charts or scatter plots is enough to find something interesting. I also enjoy using NodeBox (nodebox.net) for quickly manipulating data without code. I use Mapbox and TileMill for GIS purposes and Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign for final composition or image mainpulation. Each process involves a lot of manual manipulation and collection of the data.
“Inspiration comes from everywhere. Sometimes, it can come from seeing an interesting set of data and other times, it comes from exploring others’ portfolios.”
How the project “Between the words” came about? How did you develop it from the original concept?
Between the Words was inspired by a combination of an amateur love of typography, a grammatically correct upbringing (mother was a financial editor and father was an English teacher), and other projects examining ways of visualizing text. I’ve been getting into data visualization for several years and really enjoy the artistic side of it. After discovering Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words project, a couple years ago, I wanted to try doing my own take. The challenge was to find a new direction because she already explored so many interesting options. After experimenting with a few ideas, I ended up accidentally removing all the letters in some text and saw that the punctuation let behind was interesting in its own right.
Once I saw that, I wanted to find a way to put it all on a single poster because others might find it interesting as well. A spiral presented another interesting way of densely fitting a large amount of text on a single poster. Ultimately, the stories and books themselves weren’t part of the inspiration but more the idea of doing something interesting with text. The stories of classic literature on Project Gutenberg were a great source of material because they’re public domain and they appeal to so many.
Do you think that we can analyze a book only with its punctuation?
I think it’s a fun challenge to try—especially if you’re intimiately familiar with the book—but I don’t know how much deep analysis can be done since punctuation can be used in so many different ways. Seeing how frequently some authors use punctuation compared to others would be an interesting analysis for curiosity sake. I’ve done that with the books I’ve turned into posters so far and found that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and A Christmas Carol have the most exclamation points accounting for over 5.5% of all punctuation in each story as opposed to just over 1% for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
What’s your favourite “data work”?
I really enjoyed working on the Number Walks posters and seeing the shapes created. My interests change a lot so I may find a new favorite soon.
Are there other data visualization artists you like?
I really enjoy Giorgia Lupi’s work (giorgialupi.com), Nicholas Feltron’s work (feltron.com), and the work of Stefanie Posavec (stefanieposavec.co.uk).
How do you usually take inspiration from
Inspiration comes from everywhere. Sometimes, it can come from seeing an interesting set of data and other times, it comes from exploring others’ portfolios. For example, the inspiration for my Colors of World Flags poster came from a page listing flags by color combination (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flags_by_color_combination). Another example is that the inspiration for my Number Walks project came from Nadieh Bremmer’s Art in Pi project where she explored the path of one million digits of pi (http://www.visualcinnamon.com/portfolio/the-art-in-pi).