Today, there is a simple, powerful fact: Data is being generated at a pace and scale unprecedented in human history. By 2020, about 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things. Sensors are everywhere. Cloud storage is commoditized. Computing is more powerful than it had ever been. Technology has advanced to a point in which we – people, companies, governments—have just begun to crack open the massive opportunity from data: valuable, actionable insights.
To us at Uptake, the future is obvious. The foundation of business and industrial greatness for the next century will be contextual insight from data that drives outcomes. But the scope is so much bigger. Data will drive progress, efficiency, productivity and safety throughout the world—energy, cities, transportation, health, art. The importance of data is only going to expand as the world gets better and better at capturing information, analyzing it, and making actionable predictions.
The immensity of this data, this opportunity, is not an easy concept to grasp. Data can now answer the questions: “Where will Zika spread next?” or “What is the Safest Way to Put Out a Fire?” There are endless decks, white papers, and case studies that try to demonstrate the impact of data.
At Uptake, we believe in data, but we also believe in storytelling. We wanted to deliver an experience that better explained data and predictive analytics, one that time-pressed executives and curious friends would enjoy. The idea? An illustrated book, showcasing data through art and design.
“I am fascinated by design,” explains Brad Keywell, CEO of Uptake. “Art can tell stories in ways that words sometimes can’t. I thought, let’s make an art book about data.”
To bring the idea to life, Uptake partnered with Pentagram, the internationally acclaimed design firm. Pentagram partner Eddie Opara led the creative direction of the book, with editorial consultancy Superscript’s Molly Heintz and Avinash Rajagopal serving as editors. The result is our 250-page, large-format tome, “Changing Lives, Reimagining Machines, Improving Cities, Revolutionizing Industries and Shaping the Future Right Before Your Eyes.”
Over much of 2016, the Pentagram team collaborated with Brad and Uptake’s top leaders to visually convey the Uptake passion for data and data analysis.
“Eddie and I would sit in a room together and brainstorm a million different ways we see data changing our world and our lives,” says Brad. “Energy grid systems, transportation patterns, air travel and infection risk—these can be difficult to visualize. We were 100% on the same page on our vision for how data will be used in the future, and we came up with enough ideas to fill five books.”
For both Uptake and Pentagram, the book’s design was as important as its editorial content. Pentagram’s Brankica Harvey recalls the vision for the book: “We started with the notion that this book should be a tome, a monumental tribute to data,” she says. “In this tribute, we wanted to pull back the curtain on data and show what it can actually achieve in a very concrete and playful approach.”
To do that, Uptake and Pentagram used case studies, interviews with experts (Joi Ito, of MIT’s Media Lab and an Uptake Advisor), and dozens of infographics and diagrams (Comparing Boston’s transit ridership to that in other cities).
“The typography was chosen for its utilitarian nature but in addition to the clean and legible typeface, we added a very quirky yet, humanist serif through which the statements from the experts in the field could be relayed,” Brankica says. “The illustrations and visualizations introduce a playful element to the overall story, reinforcing and promoting the ideas that data is trying to solve. We wanted this book to be serious but with a slightly playful and tongue-in- cheek tone, something that everyone could engage with, digest and enjoy.”
To make a publication that was art-book quality, Pentagram used a variety of uncoated papers that would provide a tactile experience for the readers. It was printed by a 100-year old print shop in Florence, Italy with 4 Pantone spot colors: yellow, silver, warm gray, and black.
The colors, Brankica says, “provided the perfect counterpart to the typography and illustrations, bold, earthy, confident with an eye-opening highlight of yellow. For us, yellow signifies optimism, enlightenment and creativity and this was the ideal color to relay the powerful possibilities of data.”
In the design process, Pentagram also considered the actual experience of receiving the book in the mail as a gift from Uptake. It was important to make receiving the book feel special, like receiving a special object. So, Pentagram created a custom, clamshell box for the book.
“The box and cover played with the title and how this book is opening one’s eyes to the power of data and all that it offers for our future,” says Brankica. The front cover of the box features a closed-eye motif. When the box is opened, there’s a drawing of an open eye, in the shape of an arrow, symbolizing an eye to the future, to new ideas, to new possibilities.
While the book is a limited edition, only available to our partners and prospective clients, we are honored to have received two design awards from AIGA and The One Club for Creativity. Additionally, Fast Company recently profiled the book.
For Brad, Pentagram surpassed his expectations. “The potential for data to change the world is not limited to industry. Far from it. This book is a magnificent visual representation of the possibilities in front of us.”