HINT.FM is not so much a design agency, but a male/female duo of Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, analytic and data visualisation artists who work for Google’s data visualisation group. They have also both previously worked for IBM’s visual communication lab, and have ran their own company ‘Flowing Media’. They’re committed to the act of understanding and simplifying visualisations founded in academic research— to extract insights from raw data.
Martin describes their work as ‘a [visual] technology developed by computer scientists to extract insights from raw numbers. This technique is ideal for investigating a world represented by digital traces, where truth is hidden in masses of information,” The resulting studies take the form of web sites, prints, and videos.
The specific work of theirs that I love, is a piece called ‘Wind Map’, which ended up being exhibited at MoMA in 2012.
The site pulls analytics from the National Digital Forecast Database, and presents the precise wind data in a visual manner over the top of a geological map of North America. The gorgeous aspect of this data is how it’s presented, with each wind value being represented by a single pixel sprite, with a ghosting tail effect to indicate direction and speed of that particular wind data.
What follows is a lively and moving map of North America, where the trails and undulating flow of patterns displayed almost give the data a real sense of sentience. Numbers and wind speed figures gives way to something that almost breathes as nature would. The concept is rather simple, but the execution is so delicately handled, that you truly do get the sense that only this duo could handle immense code and data visualisation in such a way. After looking at the map, you really can’t think of a better more efficient way of displaying wind data, with the added bonus that it looks fantastic. I think that data visualisations grounded in actual efficiency is the strongest.
The design of the website or UI is lovely as well. It’s rather white and arad, which allows the maps themselves to become one large generative artwork.