This graphic may look complex, but it’s constructed from meaningless values.

It’s a statement, not about a particular set of information, but in our obsession with reasoning through data and quantifying the experience around us.

The effect is simultaneously overwhelming and unsatisfying, forcing the viewer into a state of introspection.

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

But even if they don’t actually mean anything, these images sure are pretty, aren’t they?

Infographic: Are You Looking At Too Many Infographics?

A stunning data visualization contains no real information, but manages to ask the largest question of them all.

It’s a humbling thought. When it’s all said and done, as our hearts tick their last tocks, we don’t look back on our lives tallying Nike Fuel or the year-over-year earnings in our 401Ks. The things that seemed so important cease to matter. We can all basically agree that this conclusion is inevitable, but then again, here we are, looking at an infographic on Co.Design right now rather than hugging our significant others on a beach.

This unsettling topic is right at the heart of Berlin designer Marco Bagni’s work. He’s created a trio of animations that explore heady, existential concepts like time, perspective, and even the meaning of life.

It’s this third topic--the final piece in the trilogy, called Getting Lost--that I find most poignant (or maybe personally applicable?). It fires a barrage of stunningly complex infographics at the viewer that are wholly nonsensical. There is no information hidden inside, so you’re forced to explore yourself.

“The reason of [the piece] is not to provide content, nor facts, about life. Life is such an infinite flow of possibilities, and I guess each one of us creates his or her own path through it, following something (instinct, love, passion, whatever),” Bagni tells Co.Design in an email. “But at the end, what do we get, what do we understand from life? Do we ‘know’ more about life as we are living in a very ‘informative’ age? I’m really not sure, so that’s why these graphics have no data; they stand for ‘everything,’ ‘all your experiences in life.’”

Bagni’s work is part of an evolving category of data abstractions--untruths told in bars, charts, and grids that, rather than subvert our faith in information schematics, question whether all of our fancy infographics can ever answer the most important questions in the universe. They ask things like: “what makes life unique?” and “why does PSY put me in tune with the universe?

“My personal experience tells me that the more I think I know what I’m doing, and the more I’m in control of the situation, the more I’m in fact ‘building my own view over the world,’ Bagni writes. “But this is nothing, really nothing, compared to the world itself. Basically it all happens in our minds, so WAKE UP!”

Last week, after a particularly long day at the keyboard, I walked outside. Even in the middle of the city, with only the faintest crack of sky between the buildings, I was in awe of how much larger the world was here than on my 15-inch laptop screen. There is literally a whole world out there.

Watch the other two parts of Bagni’s trilogy here and here.

[Hat tip: Creators Project]

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5 Comments

  • daftks

    This is most certainly an interesting post, and the animation provides the sense of just how much the world has to offer outside, not just from the world of the wide web on our xx-inch screens.

    Some food for thought.

  • Eric Rice

    Ah! Exploring the existential ennui of the knowledge economy by reflecting our introvert-ive exploration of the external world back on our empty, pale, immobile office selves. It makes wallowing in the global meaninglessness of our lives so much easier than walking on the beach with a gun in hand (a story and song that take on new and deeper meaning in today's geopolitical atmosphere!). 

    Sigh. I think I'll crawl under my desk and stare blankly at the beige pattern on my cubicle walls for a bit before getting back to my empty exploration of ideas. 

    In seriousness, though ... pretty cool stuff. Infographics are an intersection of using our artistic abilities to represent the world in data-driven ways. It only makes sense that someone would drag it all the way to artistic self-reflection. 

  • You

    This is one of the more interesting/less trivial items I've seen on FastCo in ages.

    That said, please raise your editorial standards.

  • Mark Rojas

    Poor headline choice, no where in this well put together video with various motion graphics did I get the sense "Am I looking at too many Infographics." 

    The featured video's message "Getting lost is the only way to find your own path" offers a nice reminder that exploration can lead great things, although it does not relate to the headline choice.  

    I also found it weird how this story went from "These beautiful graphics mean nothing" to "Don't forget to smell the flowers" so quickly.  

  • Rich Yarbrough

    I think the question that should be asked is, "Is Fast Company over-obsessed with infographics?"  We already know the answer is "yes," by the way.

    Seriously, in Co.Design Daily, do we have to have at least on story every single day (often multiple stories) on infographics???