Comparing Apples To Oranges

After two years of ‘life documenting’ it’s clear Lauren Manning is meticulous about collecting data on her food consumption.

As part of a larger daily data project Lauren noted down every meal she ate for a year. She then used that data set to make over forty different visualisations using a “variety of methods, techniques, styles, degrees of complexity, degrees of additional context and many other elements.”

It’s great to see someone using such a variety of graphic visualisation methods within one project, highlighting the infinite number of creative ways we can choose to tell a data story.

Fast Company‘s post on the project describes this project as “the Nick Felton Effect: Designers can’t get enough of visualizing their own quotidian doings.”

Lauren says, “The feedback I received really showed that there is no one answer to which method and style should be used. Different methods can all have a place when used in an appropriate setting.”

“‘It’s like comparing apples to oranges.’ This phrase is the best way to describe the current state of data visualizations. For the designer, its easy to find good visualizations and bad ones, but how to apply the successful elements of particular designs to one’s own data set starts to get a little more complicated. Data sets vary tremendously, so one man’s brilliant solution can be another’s complete failure. Instead of seeing many excellent visualizations of all different data sets, what if you could see tons of visualizations of the same data set? What new comparisons, knowledge and structure might be developed from this? How can this become a tool for the new data visualizer?”

Fast Company ponder whether this intensive analysis of her daily nutrition has actually had any influence on her eating habits. “You’d assume seeing an entire farm’s worth of poultry on the page might,” they rightly say. But Lauren says the impact of seeing what she eats hasn’t been that great. “My affinity for chicken has become something I’m more conscious of because it was such an outlier in the data, but still I find myself ordering it just as often.”

You can see all 40 visualisations on Lauren Manning’s Flickr Feed.