Nicholas Felton
Biography
Nicholas Felton spends much of his time thinking about data, charts and our daily routines. He is the author of many Personal Annual Reports that weave numerous measurements into a tapestry of graphs, maps and statistics reflecting the year’s activities. He was one of the lead designers of Facebook's timeline and the co-founder of Daytum.com. His most recent product is Reporter, an iPhone app designed to record and visualize subtle aspects of our lives. His work is a part of the permanent collection at MoMA. He has also been profiled by the Wall Street Journal, Wired and Good Magazine and recognized as one of the 50 most influential designers in America by Fast Company.
Contact
nicholas@feltron.com
20 Grand Ave, Suite 702, Brooklyn, NY 11205
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Elsewhere
Facebook
Twitter
Daytum
Instagram
Github

Speaking
2014
  • Reaktor Design Day: Too Big to Fail, September 25, 2014.
  • Make Madison: Too Big to Fail, September 6, 2014.
  • Eyeo 2014: Too Big to Fail, June 10, 2014.
  • Wired Next Fest Milan: Personal Processes 2005-2014, May 17, 2014.
  • Resonate 2014: Feltron Reporting, April 4, 2014.
  • Zeist Infographics Conference: Personal Processes, March 14, 2014.
  • World Economic Forum - Davos: Visual Data for Vital Decisions, February 25, 2014.
2013
  • Design Thinkers: Feltron Reporting: Collect and Code, November 6, 2013.
  • Semi-Permanent - Brisbane: Collect and Code: 2005-2013, October 31, 2013.
  • Semi-Permanent - Melbourne: Collect and Code: 2005-2013, October 25, 2013.
  • Zurich Storytelling Conference: My Father: Research and Revival, September 20, 2013.
  • World Economic Forum - Dalian: The Value of Visual Data, September 13, 2013.
  • Eyeo 2013: Process, Processing, June 7, 2013.
  • Visuelt: Feltron Reporting: 2005-2013, May 30, 2013.
  • TwoFiveSix: Can Good Design Give Us What We Want?, May 11, 2013.
  • Malofiej: Feltron Reporting: 2005-2012, March 15, 2013.
2012
2011
2010
  • Vimeo Festival: Telling With Numbers, October 8, 2010.
  • SEE Conference #5: Numerical Narratives (videocast), April 17, 2010.
  • PSFK: 2010 PSFK NYC, What I Did Last Year, April 9, 2010.
  • TEDx IIT Roorkee: Numerical Narratives, March 27, 2010.
2009
  • The Economist: World in 2010 Conference, Meta Messages, December 7, 2009.
  • AIGA: Print to Web 101, November 5, 2009.
  • ADC Five Plus Five Series: How to Make an Annual Report in 18 Simple Steps, October 29, 2009.
  • SVA/MFA Designer as Author Series: Felton as Feltron, December 2, 2010 / October 29, 2009.
  • Pop!Tech: What We Are Saying, October 24, 2009.
  • Feast Salon: Thoughts on Collecting, August 31, 2009.
  • University of Ulster at Belfast: April 2, 2009.
  • Foo Camp East: Collecting and Communicating Personal Data, March 28, 2009.
  • AIGA Oklahoma: The Search for Content, March 26, 2009.
  • SXSW Interactive Panel: Not the Same Old Story, March 14, 2009.
  • SVA Dot Dot Dot Lecture Series: The Curators, March 11, 2009.
2008
  • The Future of Web Design NYC: Charting Daily Data, November 4, 2008.
Internal Corporate Presentations
  • Presentations at AOL, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Nike, Ogilvy, Razorfish, United Nations and more. Please contact Nicholas to schedule a presentation at your company or event.
FAQ
Where do you find your inspiration?
From traveling and reading. From modernist design, nature, math, patterns, geometry, science and music. In obsessiveness, language, humor, little moments, simplicity and elegance.

Who can design my data?
Here are some of the most talented people I know:

What are your key considerations when designing information graphics?
My chief concern is that the finished graphic be highly scannable and easily digested. For me, this means the elimination of complicated keys and fiddly connections between labels and items. Relationships should be as direct and unadorned as possible and free of unnecessary design flourishes.

Where did your interest in charts and maps and data come from?
I don’t know exactly when my love for charts began. I have a cherished book from my childhood called “Comparisons” that holds hundreds of pages of charts and measurements and lists of data about the fastest cars and tallest waterfalls and largest animals which certainly exerted an influence on me. I was enamored with science in my youth, and the piles of National Geographic in the house further supported this passion as I grew up. I think that having a scientific mind (and a deep curiosity) explains why I am so fixated on learning the number of coffees I had in a year, or how many different types of animal I ate. Organizing this information and exploring the unknown is deeply satisfying and comforting to me.

What is your design process?
I like to start by determining the simplest way to communicate the data I’ve been given. Things get complicated very quickly, so there’s no use in starting with an intricate base visualization if it needs to have numerous labels or additional dimensions of data applied. I will use Illustrator or Processing (for more complex data) to create an initial rendering of the information. With Processing, I’ve developed an arsenal of graphing tools that will quickly allow me see the shape of the data I’m working with. I can then take the pdf output and style it with either Adobe Illustrator or InDesign.

How did the Feltron Annual Reports get started?
In 2004, I designed a year-end report called “Best of 04” that included a few numerical details about the year, like the number of postcards sent and airmiles traveled. The following year (2005), I created the first Annual Report out of information drawn from my memory, calendar, photos and last.fm data. This segmented the year into sections like Travel, Photography, Music and Books which I thought would be primarily interesting to only friends and family. Surprisingly, the report was as popular among people who had never met me as with those who knew me intimately and a result, I have dedicated increasing amounts of time to documenting and charting the passage of each year.

How has this project (and the burden of recording all this behavior) changed how you live?
The project has always been structured to record my natural behaviors, rather than influence them, which is why I refrain from tallying the results until the end of the year. Of course, recording other metrics with Daytum.com starts to create feedback loops. If you can see the miles you walk daily starting to fall, then there’s an impetus to walk more. Thankfully it only takes a few minutes a day of recording to create an extremely detailed data set of the year, and for the most part, I don’t let it burden my activities.

Do you ever fudge the numbers?
Nope. I don't guestimate because I have an honest curiosity about the outcome. Once my confidence in a number slips, its inaccuracy bothers me and I won’t publish it. The numbers I use have to be rooted in a strong methodology, and evaluated in a repeatable manner.

Do you ever find it a bit scary that complete strangers know so much about you?
Perhaps it should bother me more, but it's curated knowledge and they’ve only learned what I’d like them to know about me. I’ve offered a lot of insight into my interests and habits and some nice factoids, but I don't believe that it provides complete sense of who I am, or what I’m like. In fact people that know my work well have the tendency to tell me that I’m not at all like what they expected. So while a reader may have an intimate knowledge of my favorite band, the broader personal strokes of my life are missing.

How do you decide which data to gather over the course of the year?
I tend to discover things in the course of the year that I wish I had been tracking from the beginning, and they are added to next year’s list of items to-track. I also tend to think up fun or interesting ways to manipulate the data I am collecting throughout the course of the year. As the project has evolved, I have tried find new vantage-points on the year. 2008 was focused on distance, 2009 was concerned with the recollections of the people I spent time with and 2010 is centered on time.

Reference
Exhibitions
  • Big Bang Data, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, May 8, 2014–October 26, 2012.
  • Graphic Design: Now in Production, Walker Art Center, New York, October 22, 2011–January 22, 2012.
  • Talk to Me, MoMA, New York, July 24–November 7, 2011.
  • Virtual Identities, CCC Strozzina, Florence, Italy, May 20–July 17, 2011.
  • Future Everything, Manchester, UK, May 11–14, 2011.
  • Select Media Festival 7: Infoporn, The Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago, November 14–22, 2008.
Writing
  • Wired UK: The Big Question, May 2011, p.38.
  • Creative Review: Designers and Data: Mix with Caution, September 2010, pp.46–47.
Recognition
Juror
  • Innovation by Design Awards Judge: Data Visualization, 2014
  • Innovation by Design Awards Judge: 2-D Designs, 2012
  • Sunlight Labs Judge, Design for America, 2010
  • Art Director’s Club Judge, Young Guns 7, 2009
Teaching
  • BNO Workshop, Processing Me, March 13, 2014.
  • Gestalten Workshop, The Art of Data-based Narratives, May 27–28, 2013.
  • Eyeo Workshop Hacking the Self with Wes Grubbs and Kim Rees
  • SVA MFA in Interaction Design, Information Design, Spring 2011.
  • SVA MFA in Interaction Design, Summer Intensive Elements of Communication Design, Summer 2009 / 2010.
  • Parsons the New School for Design, Typography 1, Fall 2008.