big data | April 08, 2013

Solving Unique Problems With Data: Jer Thorp's Office for Creative Research

When big data speaker Jer Thorp's tenure as the Data Artist In Residence at The New York Times ended, he felt both excitement as well as fear. He was worried that his new venture, a company he co-founded called The Office for Creative Research, would either get no work—or work that he wouldn't be passionate about. Luckily, as he explained in a Creative Coding Podcast Google Hangout, that hasn't been the case. The data artist says that he has been fortunate to work on some really fascinating projects since launching the company.

"I love any conversation about a project that starts with: 'I'm not sure if this can be done, but...'" he says in the podcast. Thorp and his co-founders only work with a limited number of clients, and he quips that he doesn't like to take on projects that are too straight-forward or are easily done by anyone in the business. Rather, he advises potential clients that he'd rather they go with a different company if they can think of 100 other people who could accomplish the task at hand. "If it's a job that you can't think of anybody else who can do it—then it's probably something we can help you with," says Thorp. "It sounds really cliche but I guess our bottom line choice about a project is [whether] this project is going to, in some way, make the world a better place."

As he explained in the podcast (which was filmed in The Office for Creative Research's new location), there are a lot of different ways to make a good living using data visualization tools. There is a great deal of potential, he says, for what we can create when we organize the abundance of data at our fingertips. In his fascinating keynotes, Thorp argues that data is so much more than just numbers and figures. In fact, the human experience is at the very heart of our data. And, with the right techniques, we can create beautiful and informative visualizations that humanizes data and changes the way we see the world.