Working out of the Box is a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths.
In this installment, we're talking with Nadia Amoroso, an architect who has switched careers to help create the data visualization software DataAppeal.
Are you an architect working out of the box? Do you know of someone that has changed careers and has an interesting story to share? If you would like to suggest an (ex-)architect, please send us a message.
Where did you study architecture?
I studied landscape architecture and urban design at the University of Toronto, and then pursued a PhD in architectural design studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.
At what point in your life did you decide to pursue architecture?
I was interested in art, design and sciences at an early age. I wanted to be an architect since I was 13, and when I graduated from high school I decided to pursue landscape architecture since I was more interested in designing outdoor environments.
When did you decide to stop pursuing architecture? Why?
A couple of years ago, I decided to venture into the information technology and web-application design industry. My PhD focused on examining new modes of visualizing urban data. I started creating new, visually engaging data-maps using off- the-shelf software like 3D Studio Max and PhotoShop.
When I lectured at various conferences regarding my research and showcased these new types of “datascapes”, the audience was very engaged by the visual presentation of the data through these kinds of artistic spatial maps. It was at this point, when I decided that there was a really interest in the way site-based information is disseminated. I decided to create my own company focusing on the data analytics and visualization with an interest in helping organizations increase the use and sharing of information to improve high-quality decision making, visually. I teamed with a group of experts in various industry facets- data science, data analytics, business intelligence, GIS, computer science, digital media, art, web-application development, etc. We started brainstorming on some creative mapping and data analytics ideas as a software. We developed an easy to use, creative mapping and data analytic web-based tool, that turns “boring” datasets into beautiful 3d and animated maps. It’s essentially a simplified GIS application with a visual flare, which could be used by anyone.
We live in a data saturated world…there’s lot of data, and more data is accessible on the web. The question is what do we do if it, and how do begin to make sense of it.
It was at this point that I thought there was real need for this kind of software and service. I wanted to create a tool that would help with the “the democratization of data”, and a tool that will encourage users to enjoy using their data. This tool allows users to play with their data while getting intelligent business insight from their information. The Users becomes an artist and data scientist. The application allows for the flow of data within an organization to be easier, and creating an open data culture.
Describe your current profession.
I’m the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of an information, analytics and design technology company. I am in a profession that deals with data, software technology development and design. I handle business relationship with other companies, sales, company vision, product development, new hires, etc, I am always doing new things and meeting exciting people--- entrepreneurs, technology advisors, funding advisors, and meeting with various organizations and planning groups interested this liberating and showcasing their information.
What skills did you gain from architecture school, or working in the architecture industry, that have contributed to your success in your current career?
Definitely having an understanding of visual communication and sense of design and artistic skills are key skills gained from my training. Also, learning and gaining technical 3D modeling and digital graphics skills from using software programs such as 3D Studio MAX, SketchUp and PhotoShop have definitely helped contribute to the success in my current career.
Our application has a control list containing various design features including various graphical design palette and modeling styles similar to that in PhotoShop and 3D Studio MAX. Also, my understanding of GIS and research in creative mapping have helped develop this application the way it is. My architectural background has helped me design the application to ensure concepts of art and design are incorporated into the application, so the resulting data-map, don’t look like the typical GIS scientific maps, but rather “designer-type” data-maps but still offering the analytical side of it.
Do you have an interest in returning to architecture?
I do lecture at various architecture and landscape architecture programs on topics of visual communication, design studio and creative mapping. Right now, my passion is growing DataAppeal as a company, and the technology behind the application.
Currently, DataAppeal is being implemented in design and information visual communication courses, studios, and graphic design, landscape architecture, architecture and urban design curriculum. This allows me to be connected with the profession.