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Felton to Accept RISD Alumni Award


Now that Nicholas Felton 99 GD plays in the digital fast lane, he finds it more important than ever to stay focused and follow his interests and instincts. Since 2005 that focus has led to a groundbreaking series of Personal Annual Reports that weave a year of day-to-day events in his own life – the number of movies watched, trips taken, cups of coffee consumed – into a complex data trove of charts, maps and statistics. Felton’s annual reports, along with amazing data visualizations produced for clients such as The New York Times, CNN, Real Simple, Esquire, Time, Metropolis and RISD’s own magazine, RISD XYZ, have sparked an explosion of interest in the field of information graphics.

At RISD’s Commencement ceremony on June 2, the designer will collect the Alumni Association’s 2012 Business of Design Award, given to an entrepreneurial graduate for excellence in the visual arts and leadership in the commercial sector.

Last year Fast Company named Felton one of the 50 most influential designers in America. Yet, rarely has a designer risen to such notoriety for spending “much of his time thinking about data, charts and our daily routines,” as he describes himself on his own site. The popularity of his annual reports – including his latest, the 2010/2011 Biennial Report – led Felton to co-found as a means for other people to keep track of their own personal stats. When the site caught Mark Zuckerberg’s attention in 2010, it wasn’t long before the founders were invited to join Facebook’s product design team – just in time to help launch Timeline, the third-generation redesign of the social network’s profile page.

Timeline reimagined Facebook’s single-column format as a tile-based, horizontal interface with the look and feel of a “scrapbook-on-steroids” and a timeline that scrolls backward through each user’s life. “I felt strongly that your life should be shown in one long continuum,” Felton explained in an interview with Fast Company.

When The Verge asked him about the challenge of designing for Facebook’s millions of users, the designer noted that although “the scale is enormous… designing a successful product for an audience this size is very similar to designing a successful product at any scale.” Regardless of what you’re designing or for whom, the goals essentially remain the same, he says: “clarity, performance and ease of use.”

Fast Company summed up Felton’s influence by noting that his fluency in the field of info graphics may dramatically alter the way we absorb information “not just on Facebook, but also on the rest of the Internet” – essentially “turning everyone into Nicholas Felton.”

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tags: alumni, digital, entrepreneurship, innovation, Graphic Design

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Doringtom Little