Relationship Matters
Visualizing the Links between Nodes

Data visualization—the depiction of a set of relationships from a holistic, objective, top-down perspective—is an increasingly common way to represent complicated information. As our world becomes more interconnected and complex, no doubt there is a need to find new ways to impose order to make sense of so much information. The use of computational algorithms as a means to display connections between people, places, or things has been one especially popular solution. The didactic, seemingly objective qualities inherent in many of these visual mappings and networks have somehow legitimized a sense of truth and precision in their content. While existing examples of these depictions beautifully objectify complicated relationships, transforming them into abstract representations, this very success prompts my thesis inquiry: Does the visual sign of a line as a link between nodes sufficiently visualize the actual experience and transaction between one node and another? More importantly, is it possible to quantify relationships that are in fact resistant to such abstraction?

The use of the diagrammatic line as a visual representation of a connection, demarcation, or link is prevalent in graphic design. Yet when used to draw the relationship between humans, businesses, or within the Internet for example, how much information gets lost in translation? In the transition from world to map, something must be left out; likewise in the transition from relationship to data visualization. The question then becomes: What matters most and what matters least? This thesis is an investigation of the link between the nodes. My work strives to explore different ways of humanizing the link in diagrammatic representations; it attempts to activate the qualitative dimension in the info-graphic visual language by including the complexities and untidier bits of subtext more true to the actual lived experience.

It is our role as graphic designers to distill convoluted information into simple digestible forms for our audiences. Yet at what point have we overstepped our bounds in our mission to reduce and simplify? It is possible to show relationships between people, places, or things not by oversimplifying them, but by rendering a form that captures the intrinsic dynamics of its subject matter. As diagrammatic and info-graphic representations are increasingly favored to describe the complex, it is essential that we consider multiple ways of articulating this abstraction. In order to recognize the depth and potential behind both formal and circumstantial relationships, I posit the need to create representations that best speak to the humanity behind their content.

Thesis documentation book, 420 pages, 6.75 x 9.25 inches
More images coming soon, PDF of thesis also coming soon