5 years of experiments

Alice R.D-Ramnani
7 min readSep 6, 2023

This is an article on my experience with accidental data visualisation through many experiments and how it’s helped me be more

me

Last week I attended the workshop of one of my design idols Stefanie Posavec and creative connector Anne Ditmeyer. More on that below. This workshop made me realise that I worked with data more than I thought!

Stefanie and her co-author Giorgia Lupi put together a book called Dear Data in which they spent a chunk of time tracking different sets of data onto postcards and sharing the outcomes. It is very wholesome and insightful. Their work sparked a movement and community of people who did the same globally, see below.

Example of a week of swearing:

The language
The visualisation of swears

The first time I found this book I wondered about MOMA New York and was taken aback by the visual language used to communicate such simple and beautiful ideas and wanted to find a way to incorporate these ideas into my daily life more to see my progress and how far I've grown as a person.

So that's what I started doing, tracking mental growth to see it physically; going to the gym seeing muscle growth to mapping out mental wins was a challenge.

Experiement 1

Routine

The first experiment was changing my routine. In a simple spreadsheet, I tracked the times I did and did not do the tasks I wanted. Green is done. Red is not done. Purple lines were assessment points to check in with my friend and tell him if this habit was working for me or not.

I took good inspiration from Matt D’avella with his 2-day rule where he states “Whatever habit you’re trying to build, never allow yourself to skip more than one day in a row.”

What I learnt from this 8-month experiment is that is very unrealistic to maintain, leaves little room for flexibility and brings to light more shame than milestones. It was not for me. I needed something more fun and positive- driven based.

Something like the philosophy of Will Ahmed, founder of Whoop a health tracking device. Their value proposition is not about achieving the best or the most but it's more focused on rest and recovery and what is best based on the individual's rest time.

2020 ROUTINE

Experiment 2

Language

After a life-changing Vipassana retreat, I got fed up with talking without intention. I wish there was a mood chart to show what you are thinking and feeling instead of having to explain. I could not find one that was not cheesy so I decided to create my language so that my friends and family could look at this “Dictionary de Rids” and know what I was thinking and feeling.

For example:
Draw a shape, Match this with a Pantone colour hex, Describe the feeling, Provide a translation and give an example of how this shape can be used in day-to-day language.

This experiment helped me understand my thoughts and how to articulate them better for more effective communication at work and in all forms of relationships. My friends and family rejected using this dictionary so now it's an ancient relic.

Dictionary de Rids

Experiment 3

Future-proofing

I meet up with my creative partner Joy Zhang weekly to reflect on all the thoughts, feelings and lessons I have gathered that week in thought to pass this down to my grandkids in a time capsule to show my thinking and see how it's changed. I've always loved documenting ideas but in this experiment, I will not be able to experience the outcome. This is where I am thinking about how to make this time capsule more visual and fun to digest.

Experiment 4

Describe me in one sentence

One of those low self-esteem days comes in right on time first thing on Monday morning. Monday blues go away. So I asked a few people who know me at different levels to describe me in a sentence. Moving on from here am in the midst of making these into a jacket to wear just for Monday mornings of course.

You can't shame the shameless

Experiment 5

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Someone asked me this and my jaw fell to the floor and took me a few days to answer and relocate my jaw. I asked some friends and these are some of the responses:

34 is where I aspire to be

Experiment 6

What are you in emojis?

I successfully delivered a presentation with only emojis to tell my story. It was a 4-week design challenge for a company on the future of sustainable food. I did not win this challenge but I wanted to test my storytelling so it sparked my interest to ask…

Connecting the Dots workshop

Stefanie and Anne put a valuable workshop together based on connecting the dots and the main questions for the workshop were around:

Who are your closest connections now, and what types of connections do you seek?

This is a good example of visualising a connection

To visualise data we need a data set!

List out a few people right now in your life that you have a connection with.

This was harder than it sounded, it was like finding who would be your next of kin. Once I managed to shave down to 16 or so people in my life the workshop was going to get more interesting and real.

Mapping data especially with your personal lives requires only one thing and that's being honest with yourself at the moment. Eg. I love my parents and family but did I put them on my list more out of obligation? Was I truthful on my list? If I were to do this exercise today my list would look vastly different.

Enter pattern thinking.

Names blurred out because it caused chaos with my friends

As a neurodiverse person bla bla bla, pattern thinking; my brain’s tendency to find order in chaos is one of the greatest joys of having a curiously wired brain. I describe it best as being able to detangle a bunch of wires and then strategically place them back in a specific order depending on what the key goal is with a certain task.

Aw hell no

Pattern thinking was helpful when trying to connect the dots to certain people, places and things. I had some realisations about how I perceive people's closeness in my life to how long I have known them. I enjoyed this exercise because 3D thinking your thoughts bred a new way of looking at what I already know but through a different lens.

BANANANANANANANA

Bananna Mapping

We were given a few minutes to put our thoughts onto fruit. Was this beneficial, yes. It's metaphorically genius because these thoughts will have an expiry date and it helps focus on the now and being present. Thanks, Anne!

On my banana, I focused on action steps for different areas of connection and then

I ate it.

Maybe the key to following your goals is to write them on perishable items.

I felt this workshop reignited the way I conduct some of my experiments and how I like to visualise how I look at patterns in my life going further. It was very calming drawing, listening to other people's rationales and most importantly making time for artist dates in the age of go go that I don't prioritise enough.

What now?

I want to use these new methods to visualise how my service design practice can look like while not losing the creativity from the word design and embedding more space for experiences in the world of work and other areas in life.

Thanks, Stefanie and Anne for your time and for sharing what you know! And to my friends to respond to all my random requests.

Interesting to know I'm almost EXPIRED!!!

26,700 days until I turn 100…

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