This is the second part of my recently launched Visualisation Insights series. The purpose of this series is to provide readers with unique insights into the field of visualisation from the different perspectives of those in the roles of designer, practitioner, academic, blogger, journalist and all sorts of other visual thinkers. My aim is to bring together these interviews to create a greater understanding and appreciation of the challenges, approaches and solutions that exist in the worlds of these people - the visualisation field's 'cast and crew'.

Visualisation Insights #2

Independent Content Curator | Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is an Independent Content Curator and Marketing/Branding Consultant based in Brazil. He runs the very popular Visual Loop website which is described as:

A non-stop stream of links to infographics, maps, charts and many other worldwide visualization designs that make the process of understanding our life a bit easier... or not. It's not a showcase of good or bad design. It's just... a Visual Loop.

I came across Tiago's site in June when I was researching my series of posts around the World Cup visualisations and found it to be a fantastic resource for discovering worldwide visualisations and infographics, good and bad, all of which helps to sharpen our identification and appreciation of best practice design principles and expose ourself to latest trends in topic or approach. As a prolific collector and sharer of all this content I thought it would be interesting to discover more about Tiago's experiences around the visualisation and infographic field.

Tiago, can you give me a brief outline of your training/career background leading up to the launch of Visual Loop?

I have a degree in Hotel Management and I worked for more than 15 years in the travel and tourism industry, from restaurants and hotels in Europe, to catering for oil platforms in Angola, and ecotourism in Brazil. A big part of those experiences involved a permanent contact with people from all over the world, providing me, among other things, with an understanding of how important the use of data visualization can be as way of establishing a bridge of communication in situations where, sometimes, traditional speech wasn’t enough.

You describe yourself as a content curator which is a fascinating job description - can you give a bit more detail and insight into this world?

We’re literally bombarded with an unthinkable amount of information. Of course, a lot of developments have been made in order to make the job of dealing with that easier, but even so, it’s pretty hard to keep a clean stream of what’s really important. On the other hand, with the increasing importance of social media as a marketing and branding tool, the quality of the content a company creates and shares with their followers/friends/readers is, probably, the biggest differential one can create to add value to their services and products – and that takes time and investment, especially in people.

As a content curator, I offer companies a guarantee of minimum prime content that assures that their social media presence is constantly adding value, a part of all the marketing and promotional actions they can make in those channels.

When or what was your “aha!” moment in terms of discovering visualisation/infographics?

Social media, is, above all, a consequence of the evolution of mankind, and in my work in the tourism and travel industry I had to quickly adapt to major cultural differences. Basically, I believe that the true value of social media is the possibility of extending beyond physical boundaries what I did during all those years: to be willing to help, engage, and serve people from all parts of the world.

So, during that process of establishing myself as a content curator, I needed a way to easily communicate with all those different “worlds”, and, like I said, data visualization always seemed to be a great way of achieving that – both to “tell” and “hear” and learn.

I’ve been collecting infographics for quite sometime, but the amount of information visualizations that started to pop-up on the Internet, for the past 2 years, made the task of organizing them much harder, even with bookmarking tools. That was when I decided to start my own online collection, hoping that it could also be of some value to others.

For those unfamiliar with your site, can you describe what it is and what your overall aims are? What motivated you to start the site?

Visual Loop is a non-stop stream of links for data-visualizations, such as infographs, maps, charts, diagrams and others. And when I say non-stop, it’s literally 24/7 - within 7 months, I’ve posted over 4300, which is indeed a big number.

Another peculiarity is that it's not about the design, but mostly about the information, and it covers a wide variety of topics – something that is also important for my work, because I have clients from all segments and industries.

I don’t have a “designer” background, like most of the blogs on this topic, and I don’t do “reviews”. And it’s great to see that that’s one of the most appreciated things by the designers that follow Visual Loop. Most of them see it as a way of quickly getting access to an amount of infographics about a specific topic, without preconceptions, and be inspired both by the “good” as by the “bad” designs.

Without giving away any trade secrets can you describe your approach to managing this site and its incredible stream of content? What sites/services do you use to fully immerse yourself in the subject? How do you find, identify and collect the content you publish? Can you explain your selection policy for including certain graphics? When do you sleep?

As a good friend of mine put it once, I’m the CEO of Visual Loop. As in Chief Everything Officer. It’s all done by me, and the only way I can keep the stream is because I invested 6 months on tracking down sources from all over the world. Of course it helps a lot not being so concerned about the “quality”, or a specific topic, and the fact that I post designs from different places, including non-English speaking countries.

Tumblr, which I chose as a platform because of its simplicity, allows me to queue the posts on a very intuitive way, making it possible to keep the stream going even when I’m working – or sleeping ;)

As for the sources, besides the main blogs, Flickr, and some Ning networks are among my favorite places to find new stuff.

From your own perspective, how would you describe your own visualisation/design style or preferences? eg. Who would you describe as being the most influential authors/designers that most closely match your ‘taste’? Do you have a particular favourite graphic?

I try not to be too much personal about the designs I post, like I said. But I’m particularly fond of editorial infographics, the ones we see in newspapers and magazines, and interactive ones. It’s pretty much impossible for me to select one favorite, after more than 4000 posts, but I could mention the ones I’ve included on some of the posts I wrote for Inspired Magazine: Infographics from Brazil and some of the Interactive resources mentioned in this post.

What would you describe as being the key milestones of progress since you began the site? You must have some fairly amazing stats/figures associated with your work to date?

Things have been happening very quickly, beyond my wildest expectations. The 4000 posts mark was something that made say “Wow!! It’s moving fast!”. But the biggest achievement so far was to be included in Alltop’s list for infographics, among some of the big names. It really took me by surprise.

In terms of website stats, the number I’m most proud of is the 3.5% Bounce Rate – when people discover Visual Loop, they usually spend quite some time there.

But even so, the numbers never were a priority – I keep Visual Loop ad-free, so as long as people visit it and recommend it as a source, the “mission accomplished” feeling is there.

Some readers will have seen that you have produced a number of articles for InspiredMag and I see you’ve also recently started contributing to Randall Hand’s VizWorld site? How did these opportunities come about?

Those were also two important milestones, of course.

With Inspired Magazine, it all started with a comment I left on a post about infographic blogs, in which I mentioned Visual Loop as an additional resource. Immediately they included it on that same post, and I received an invitation from Catalin Zorzini to write a guest post. And from that point on, I’ve been making monthly contributions.

On the other hand, with Randall’s VizWorld it was a bit different. I started to notice that some of their posts were mentioning Visual Loop as a source, and we started exchanging emails about a possible contribution. We decided to try out a Daily round-up of 5 or 6 infographics, named it Daily Viz from Visual Loop, and it’s been working out like that since July.

What plans and ambitions do you have for the future with Visual Loop? What would you expect visitors will see in 12 months time, for example?

A couple of months ago, I started asking for advice, critics and suggestions from my readers, and a lot of great ideas came up. I’m still in that process of fully understanding their expectations, and for now, my only guarantee is that the stream of infographics will continue. Keeping the stream going and making the search process easier are the top priorities.

From my own experiences researching my world cup visualisation posts, it struck me how much amazing design work is emerging from Brazil and South America in general, how do you see the state of the visualisation/infographics field? How would you compare it with the rest of the world, do you notice any clear, regional differences in techniques or design approach?

No doubt that there are big differences, both in design style and in the use of data-visualization, as far as an “amateur” can appreciate. Even someone who’s not a designer can see that the cultural and social environment plays a tremendous role on the way information is designed and displayed. I think South American designers, especially in Brazil, have a much more “freestyle” approach, innovating with a mix of vibrant colors and detailed illustrations, without polluting or hiding the information.

And I also believe that it has a lot to do with the editorial vision of the magazines and newspapers. Here, it just feels like the text and the infographic are one, as opposed to a “little picture to illustrate the news”.

But, like I said, it’s just a personal point of view, from someone who doesn’t have a “professional” background on the subject.

What are the things that excite you/make you positive about the way the visualisation is advancing? Are there any aspects that particularly frustrate or disappoint you?

Personally, the most impressive fact is the rise of the use of infographics throughout the Internet. I think we’re seeing the replacement of the “Top 10 Lists” by infographics as the main link-bait strategy, and that opens a whole new world of possibilities for the design community. The rise of mobile, broadband expansion, cheaper (and better) devices, all will play their role in making visual thinking more and more mainstream.

I’m especially excited about the impact it can have in countries with a higher educational gap, where the habits of reading are not so traditional like they are in Europe or North-America. With the proper use of data-visualization, combined with all the new technologies, the educational process could be greatly improved, and that is something the “old school, old media” governments still have to pay more attention to – and take advantage.

Finally, a chance for you to recommend or publicise others – apart from the more obvious and popular visualisation-related sites, which other sites/ designer’s would you recommend for readers to take a look at? Are there any designers, particularly around South America, who you would identify as producing particularly innovative work right now?

My first post on Inspired Magazine was precisely about infographic design in Brazil. I selected 10 of my favorite designers, and I’d recommend them all, because, besides being extremely talented, each and every one of them has a particular style - and they all are big supporters of Visual Loop.

So, I’ll mention:

... as part of that selection, and also from Brazil, Renata Steffen, who I only met a few weeks after that post.

Outside Brazil, I must recommend Robin Richards and Tiffany Farrant, both from Bristol (UK), who have produced some of the most amazing graphs I’ve seen, and are also big supporters of the whole Visual Loop concept.


Many thanks to Tiago for his interesting and detailed responses - in outstanding English - and for his time in participating in this post, I wish him all the success and quality sleep that hopefully awaits him in the future. There are many ways to follow Tiago's updates, you can find information here or simply follow him on Twitter @TSSVeloso.

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