13.04.2016 by Marisa Krystian

Great data visualizations are the perfect blend of data and design. Good design is what brings data to life in a clear, engaging, and impactful way – which is why it’s incredibly important to our team here at Infogram.

We sat down with Infogram’s Head Designer, Jānis Godiņš, to talk about his design methodology and what inspires him to create.


1) How did you get into design?

Since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in how things work. I was obsessed with drawing and making things. My household experiments began to worry my parents – especially once I became interested in electricity.

In elementary school, I wanted to become an architect, but I was also interested in technology and computer science. Becoming a designer was the next natural step for me because it involved the subjects I was interested in and felt like my calling.

2) Why is design so important?

Design has been around since the dawn of man. It is something that is very fundamental to us; the ability to create and transform the environment around us.

The ability to design was an evolutionary gift, the same way birds were given wings, cheetah’s were given speed, and the octopus was given the ability to change color. We probably aren’t aware of this, but in a way we’re are all designers. We design our everyday lives, turning thoughts into reality, which is what the design process is all about. 

3) What does it take to be a good designer?

First, design is all about people. It is inspired by nature, human laws, empathy and logical thinking. It helps you see the world from different angles.

Designers Charles and Ray Eames made a great film showing how to view the world as designer:

As a designer, you have to be focused and patient, because the process never happens as fast as you want it to. You need to be inquisitive, ask lots of questions, practice using new tools and research new technologies.

Design is not just about trends, style, beauty, selling or self-expression. You need to be selfless if you want to solve real problems – be a visionary – and give people what they need, not just what they want.

4) What are the current challenges you face as a designer?

I strongly believe the success of a well-designed product or service depends on teamwork. As the world gets more complicated, it becomes harder for one person to solve problems on their own. You must trust your team and learn how to communicate your ideas to people who think in different ways. My current challenge seems to be re-designing the design process itself.

5) What is Infogram’s design methodology?

The design department shares a room with our developers, so we work closely with our engineers. We always try to make decisions based on real user needs using available data and feedback. We want to make our design process open to everyone in the company. Sometimes great design ideas come from other departments.

One of the best ways to design a SaaS product is to look at usage patterns and filter out what users really need, then make design decisions together in iterations. The idea is to do less, but better.

6) What is important when designing interactive data visualizations?

Data visualizations are the simplest, fastest, most engaging way to present data. There are a lot of inspiring stories in history that show how visualizations have shaped how people communicate. I think interactivity adds a new dimension to visualizations and I’m glad I can contribute to this field as a designer.

7) What inspires you when you design?

I’m inspired by so many things that some days I need to force myself to stay focused so I can get my work done. I think the history of architecture and industrial design is fascinating. I love how the design process has reshaped our world and brought together so many different disciplines.

I’m inspired by many great people with groundbreaking ideas like Le Corbusier, Dieter Rams or the Bauhaus movement. But, I’m also inspired by many radical and rebellious movements like Superstudio or Memphis.

8) What is your setup? What tools do you use?

Talking about grids, tools, or the latest software is very boring; it’s like talking about the weather, which is constantly changing. I pretty much use all the modern tools that designers use today, but my most valuable tool is my brain.

9) How would you describe your style as a designer?

I try to avoid having ‘a style’ as a designer. As a designer, you should be invisible and let the product speak for itself – using the right technologies, universal principles of design and meaningful aesthetics.

10) What do you consider the most important quality in design?

Empathy.


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