Spatial Information Design Lab

The Spatial Information Design Lab was founded in 2004 as an interdisciplinary research unit in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

Spatial Information Design refers to a set of analytic and creative strategies for investigating and representing all sorts of data — quantitative, visual, and textual —  about the spaces of the contemporary world. We work with information at multiple scales, from the cell and the building to the city and the globe. We are as interested in concrete and tangible geographic phenomena as we are in digital and ephemeral data traces. We see our task as converting information that is otherwise dormant, invisible, or simply incomprehensible into images and arguments that provide grounds for research, discovery, and action.

We are committed to rigorous and reliable work with evidence; to harnessing the most powerful techniques of design and visualization; and to a critical reflection on the limits and ideologies of both data and its representation.

Based in the architecture and urban planning disciplines, we tend to privilege information about geography and space, probing to know where things are happening, how things are moving, and what is connected with what.  We are also designers, and so we map, reorganize, and represent data using advanced visualization techniques, correlating and analyzing disparate items of information into images of the patterns and networks they create.

Design, for us, is less like a tool and more like a language, a practice that shapes the outcomes and understandings of the things people do. It is not simply an aesthetic prejudice. The ways in which ideas and information are presented can sometimes be even more important than the material itself, for better, or more commonly, for worse. Our work with design aims to make a difference in the way people imagine their own possibilities of responding to what is said and done in the world.

Our projects generally involve collaborations with researchers and advocates across a variety of disciplines and institutions, working with them to communicate information clearly, critically, responsibly, and provocatively.