Bridging Data and Design: Eyeo Festival 2017


Enigma sent two members of our design team, product designers Melody Hammer and Owen Whiting, to Minneapolis to attend Eyeo Festival, an event bringing together speakers and attendees from all over the world to discuss topics that sit at the intersection of art, technology, information, and experimentation.


Melody Owen Eyeo

At Enigma, we’re committed to using data to drive positive change in the world by increasing transparency and providing actionable insights to make meaningful decisions. This sentiment was echoed at this year’s Eyeo Festival, where the theme of making a difference through data was strong. Although many of the speakers were thought-provoking, several stood out as being particularly relevant to Enigma and the work we do.

A few speaker highlights

Nick Felton Cropped

A slide from Nick Felton's session, "Feltron: Art vs. Product"

Nick Felton’s presentation about some of the current and past projects he’s worked on focused on the four things he asks himself in order to gauge the success of a project:

  1. Is it useful?

  2. Is it profitable?

  3. Is it interesting?

  4. Is it impactful?

As a startup ourselves, it’s imperative that we always keep the metrics for our company’s success in the back of our minds. Felton’s examination of some of his past projects and how they failed and succeeded showed a high degree of self-reflection. People and companies often focus too heavily on just one aspect of their venture’s success, and their projects fail because of that narrow focus.  


Gene Kogan Cropped

Gene Kogan's session, "How to Make no Money as a Data Scientist"

Gene Kogan’s talk, titled “How to Make no Money as a Data Scientist” provided an honest look at the areas of data that can’t easily be classified. His interest lies in areas of machine learning, generative systems, and artificial intelligence. Much of the work that he’s done has focused on AI-generated imagery similar to Google’s DeepDream project, but he’s also experimented in areas such as voice-controlled computing and neural networks.

What I [Owen] liked about his work was that he was less concerned about the immediate real-word usefulness of a project, but instead saw teaching and inspiring others as a bigger contribution. Sometimes if you want to have an impact, you just have to make people excited by exposing them to new technologies. Imparting knowledge is a good way of doing this.


Kevin Slavin Slide

A slide from Kevin Slavin's session, "Invisible Cities"

Kevin Slavin gave an intriguing lecture about “Invisible Cities.” The study focused on bacteria and single-celled organisms that create microbiomes in the human body, and how these microorganisms have a major impacts on our public health.

The research team from the Playful Systems Group at MIT’s Media Lab, focused on mapping the cities' microbiomes, by tracking honey bees strategically placed throughout New York City and Tokyo. The team produced a patented metagenomics beehive that would catch all the dust and debris bees collect within a two mile radius providing detailed data about each microbiome within the allotted radius. As a result, the team gained insights in how dramatically different each microbiome was depending on cultural existence, climate, and natural disasters. The conclusion was that some conventional ways of thinking about public health and architecture may not be optimized for our health.


Looking forward

[Melody] Attending Eyeo Festival 2017 inspired me in many ways to get involved in this creative community. It introduced me to an open source toolkit called openFrameworks that gives artists the tools to create live interactive installations and sensory based artwork. I'm fascinated with this technology, because of the ways it could be potentially utilized in teaching and game based learning.

I was also introduced to — and am excited about — The Shed, which will open in 2019 next to the NYC Highline. This massive architectural feat uses a fluid design that lets the building transform its size and appearance based on featured performance artists and visual exhibitions. The Shed is a first to create a cultural epicenter for all performance artists, visual arts, and science and technology.

[Owen] Overall, there were a few overarching themes that I noticed. Many speakers touched upon the idea that despite the appearance of being impartial, data doesn’t always equate to cold hard fact. Just because something is quantified doesn’t mean that it can’t be manipulate or skewed to present a specific picture. When it comes down to it the main thing to focus on is people, not data.

This is something that’s especially important for Enigma to keep in mind as a data-driven company. Enabling ourselves and our clients to interpret the world around them in a meaningful way is what we aim to do with all of our products, ranging from the UI of an interface to the data itself.

P.S. Enigma is looking for designers to join our team. Check out our open roles here.