The Eyeo Festival took place in Minneapolis last week. I missed it. I missed it for a very good reason, which is that I just started a new job as a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. But I still followed from afar, wishing I could hear firsthand about some of the fantastic projects and ideas that get presented there (and I’ll certainly check out the videos as they get posted).

What is the Eyeo Festival, you might be wondering? It’s a small annual conference that “brings together creative coders, data designers, and creators working at the intersection of data, art, and technology for inspiring talks, workshops, labs, and events.” I’ve been to two out of the four conferences and have come away both times incredibly inspired and impressed. This is not just big data. This is big, beautiful, informative data. The coders, designers, and creators both at Eyeo and elsewhere provide living proof that big (and small) data doesn’t have to be ugly, messy, or impossible to understand.

It can have an emotional impact and make a point like this project by Kim Rees and Periscopic, which uses mortality data from the World Health Organization to estimate the number of years lost to gun deaths in 2013 alone.

U.S. Gun Deaths in 2013

Or it can have unanticipated uses, like the Wind Map by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, which incorporates data from the National Digital Forecast Database and has been used to track bird migrations or plan long bike trips. But the Wind Map is also so visually compelling that you can purchase prints of key events, and it has joined the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, my previous place of employment.

Wind Map

An event like Eyeo underscores the growing intersection of code, design, and data, something that we talk about frequently here at Forrester (my new colleague Tony Costa has an upcoming report on data-driven experience design, for example).

And while I didn’t get to attend that conference, I’ve spent some of my first couple of weeks here preparing to speak at the upcoming Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York, where I’ll be talking about connecting physical and digital experiences. I look forward to seeing you there!