SXSW 2015 Panel Recap: How Beautiful Tools Make Sense of Complex Data

Kevin Safford, Senior Data Scientist of Umbel, started the ‘How Beautiful Tools Make Sense of Complex Data” panel on a more philisophical note by asking the panelists to share how they defined beautiful tools. 

“Usability and providing something that people need, whether its information, comfort, time is what truly makes a tool beautiful. The focus of the beauty is on the interaction and the information it provides rather than simply just the aesthetics,” stated panelist Francois Xavier Fringant, Co-Founder of Dataveyes. He also clarified that it’s possible to have both aesthetics and usability working together.

Naomi Robbins, Principal of NBR, said that her initial defintion of beauty was something that was “extremely attractive,” but has now evolved to a more textbook definition of “being delightful to the mind” and simply just being more understandable. Eye-catching and easy to understand are not always synonymous, but to her it’s important to have both of these elements. 

Because of Gloria Lau’s background as an engineer and as the VP of Data of Timeful, her focus on beautiful tools is quite different. Her requirement is less about aesthetics and more about interaction, speed, intuitiveness, and reliability. Being able to understand what you’re getting out of a tool is what she considers beautiful.

Other topics that were covered included were methods used when building up visualizations around data, accessibility of data so that it’s understandable to anyone in the organization and much more. 

To watch the full panel on How Beautiful Tools Make Sense of Complex Data, please click here.