Originally commissioned for the new US Census Bureau headquarters, the American Varietal project includes a 40-foot "data-mural", a real-time multi-touch interface system (coming soon), a suite of four large print works, and literally thousands of images and animations. At the core of the project is a 3-dimensional dataform representing all 3171 US counties and their populations from 1790 to 2010. This form, a collection of curved sheets or skeins, visualizes the growth of the US population, in its entirety, over the course of 220 years.
Each skein maps directly to an individual county, its color derived from the flag of the state it resides in, while the shape of each corresponds to its growth curve. In a very real sense then, this artwork is merely a graph of these statistics. But the transformation of numbers into visuals is a tricky thing and calls an interesting question into focus. That is, what is the proper balance between truth-in-data for information purposes on the one hand, and the presentation and appreciation of pure form on the other? Considering the client is one of the premier information gathering entities in the world, it felt presumptuous and unnecessary (and rather boring) to make an object intended to "teach" them something. My solution, instead, is a clinically plotted 3-dimensional "graph" whose prime purpose is a counterintuitive aestheticizing of information rather than an overtly informative aim.