Maskar Design: making visual sense of a 'zillion bits of data' - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 9, 2011 11:00 am

Maskar Design: making visual sense of a ‘zillion bits of data’

The City has a ‘zillion bits of data,’ says Kate Maskar, but until it’s all pulled together and put into context, most of it doesn’t have a lot of meaning. One of the best examples of Maskar Design, of which Kate is president and founder, doing just that isn’t even a core part of the […]

Maskar Design data visualization of City of Philadelphia budget as the January portion of their Curious 2011 calendar.

The City has a ‘zillion bits of data,’ says Kate Maskar, but until it’s all pulled together and put into context, most of it doesn’t have a lot of meaning.

One of the best examples of Maskar Design, of which Kate is president and founder, doing just that isn’t even a core part of the Rittenhouse design shop’s portfolio.

Last year, Maskar, 52, and her team of six created a data visualization calendar [Beware: 9MB PDF], it was so well received, that the firm launched a second version, Curious 2011. Featuring a different visualization for each month, from the City of Philadelphia budget to the process of making bagels, Maskar is selling the calendars for $10 and $5 for each additional copy. It’s early enough in the year for the calendars to still be worth it.

“You know you succeeded with a data visualization when even you look at the finished product,” she says, “and go, ‘Oh my God. I never realized that.”

In business since 1988, after she left her role as art director at Urban Outfitters, Maskar’s shop is old school: make information beautiful.

“Mostly, the web has a low information density, but with print, there’s a high density,” says the Society Hill resident. “So when you do it right, visualizations can pack information in a way that doesn’t always translate well online.”

Of course, most of their projects, and certainly among their more exciting ones, are online.

In October, Maskar unveiled the Progress of the World’s Women website from UNIFEM, a project of the United Nations. Maskar also handled the design work for the Philly Homegrown site from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

“Our desire,” Maskar says, “is to play with ways design can help get the message delivered.”

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