Have you ever sat back and reflected on your day? Your week? Your month? Your year? Most of you are probably nodding. “Of course!” Is the deafening whisper I can hear reverberating within your skull.
But we mean really reflect on it. Like, really reflect on it.
You are probably still nodding, but you won’t be when I reveal the kind of reflection we are actually talking about.
For instance, do you know how many miles you covered with your moustache in a year before you shaved it off? Do you know how many taxis you took? Do you know the average number of emails you sent per day at work? Do you know what the percentage chance was you would be eating dinner at home on any given day? Do you know the number of photos you took for the whole year? And importantly, do you have all these facts and stats on hand in an easy to find and digest info-graphic?
The answer is, I am sure, probably not. And if you do have these stats on hand, or you said yes to any of the above questions, my moustache and I would like to say a big hello. That is because if you did say yes to any of the questions, your name is more than likely Nicholas Felton – it is an honour to have you here sir. If your name is not Nicholas Felton, you need to take a good hard look at yourself.
Since 2005 Felton has been recording, graphing, charting and taking note of his daily routines. Beginning with mundane tasks and easy to record moments, like plane trips taken (from the ticket stubs) or songs added to an iTunes library (from the summary list), Mr. Felton began to catalogue his life. The following year, he took it one step further, tracking restaurants, beverages, types of meat eaten and a long list of other esoteric data points. Then, at the end of the year, Felton employed his skill set as an infographic designer, amalgamated the year’s worth of menial data and produced what was the first of a kind in a tradition that continues to this day, the “Feltron 2006 Annual Report” (The “r” in “Feltron” was added to include a subtle pseudonym component to the report.)
In isolation, the time he spent in his back yard vs. his office or the number of times interacted with an individual graphed against the level of intimacy of that interaction is not that interesting. Two dots on a page or one album name would not set my world on fire, that’s for sure. But, as with a lot of things, the sum is greater than its parts. Especially when you comprehend that each data point is a specific action taken by him and fastidiously recorded. For this recording facet alone, Felton should receive bulk kudos. The rigour, discipline and unnerving dedication to record the minutiae of life’s details is a character trait worth celebrating.
However, embedded in the Feltron Reports is so much more than pretty pictures or trivial facts. For when interpreted as what they truly are for Nicholas, the data points are incredibly powerful wells of information. For Felton, the summation of an entire year provides incredible insight into who he is as a person. But moving beyond banal interest, data is truly only worthy if it is actionable and the data Felton has collected is undeniably so. In clear black and white, Felton knows that in the 2010-2011 year he spent 23 and ¾ days with his mum in 8 different locations. Thinking that that might have been a little on the skinny side, Felton upped his efforts and in the following year spent more time with his dear old mum. Armed with information, Felton made active efforts to warp his lifestyle and add greater meaning to his existence.
Whilst is may be exhausting accounting for every action and every minute every day, there are lessons to be learned from a life graphically understood.
Nicholas Felton spends much of his time thinking about data, charts and our daily routines. He is the author of several Personal Annual Reports that weave numerous measurements into a tapestry of graphs, maps and statistics that reflect the year’s activities. He is the co-founder of Daytum.com, and currently a member of the product design team at Facebook. His work has been profiled in publications including the Wall Street Journal, Wired and Good Magazine and has been recognized as one of the 50 most influential designers in America by Fast Company.
- Nicholas Felton on Design’s Data-Driven Future (wired.com)