This week we’re shining the spotlight on Rachel Binx; a freelance data visualizer whose experience includes working for Stamen and producing projects for Pitch Interactive. Her current work is truly one of a kind; called Meshu, Binx works alongside Sha Hwang to help clients turn their travels into jewelry. The website allows viewers to choose cities around the world, placing points on a map, creating an original and truly unique piece of art, beauty – and visualization.
Originally from Albuquerque, Binx moved to California for college where she earned her bachelor degree in math and art history – dabbling with design and computer science along the way. By the end of her junior year in school, she realized that all of her interests and studies could be honed into one field: data visualization.
The rising visibility of data and visualization in the news is a powerful tool for communicating more about the story… for educating and inspiring people. I think that visualizations are an extension of the ‘picture is worth 1,000 words’ idea… Interacting with data helps people make deeper connections with that information.
And so, for her senior year honor’s thesis, Binx actually taught herself processing and created a portfolio of four different visualization projects. Since school, she’s honed her web design skills through freelancing and put together a portfolio site showing off more of her projects.
She says that the most fun datasets to work with are the “fuzzy combination of entertainment and social” that she produced at Stamen. However, she hopes that her future work targets the environment and issues of social justice.
Visualizations are immensely powerful for communicating information – that’s why we’re all in this field, right? – and I would love to help educate people more about these issues.
One of her favorite projects was MTV’s Most Share-Worthy Video, an award that celebrated fans’ favorite music videos, and the video tributes that they inspire. Binx says that while it’s one of the simplest visualizations she’s worked on, the website is MTV’s top visited page ever. The 50 million+ tweets cast in the vote narrowed down the competition to “a horserace between Justin Bieber and One Direction… Justin got pretty desperate near the end, doing things like posting shirtless pictures of himself on Instagram… If nothing else, I’ll always have the fact that my work made Justin Bieber pose half-naked!”
Just as MTV used this project, Binx believes that “at its core, data visualization is just another technique for brands to communicate with their audiences.” Companies like MTV use these to encourage user participation and show that their inputs matter, while others in public policy or government may publish information visually in order to report progress updates and create discussions about news.
It’s a delicate balance to craft a visualization that is informative, understandable, and visually appealing. Complex visualizations require a mix of data science, design, and development, and a person who can do all three of those is a rare specimen.
Binx says that she’s inspired by two recent pieces by Pitch Interactive as examples of the “core power of visualization, providing a way to understand data”: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, and U.S. Gun Deaths. She says that both touch on important, yet rarely discussed topics, and that she admires their beautiful execution and design.
Keep up-to-date with all of Binx’s projects and travels by following her on Twitter (@rachelbinx). Have an idea of who should be our next Spotlight Interview? Let us know! And be sure to sign up with iCharts today to start visualizing your data.