Motion art captures city life and multiple design awards

A Swinburne motion design team is taking data from the lives of everyday Melburnians and transforming it into a living artwork.

Lead designer James Berrett, project manager Sonja Pedell and communication designer Simone Taffe have used smart city data to create a captivating set of real-time data visualisations that respond to human movements around the City of Casey.

The motion artwork called Three Corners of the City featured at Bunjil Place community hub and has been awarded the Victorian Premier’s Design Award Best in Category Digital Design, an Australian Good Design Award and a DNA Paris Design Award.

What is smart city data?

Smart city data is information collected from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors placed around a city.

The sensors can track a variety of information, such as when a button is pressed, a bin is emptied or a person walks past.

The City of Casey has developed an open data platform to make all that information accessible to the public.

“The driver for the project was to showcase movement across the City of Casey 24/7 and demonstrate how smart city data can be used in creative ways,” Berrett says.

“The council commissioned this piece to engage community members in what is happening around the City of Casey.”

The project uses real-time data sets from Narre Warren, Berwick and Cranbourne that measure the amount of pedestrian traffic in busy areas.

“It was about taking the everyday life of people, the movements of people, and turning this information into something visually engaging,” Berrett says.

A motion artwork created from real-time data visualisation of human movements around the city of Casey

The unique colour sets for the suburbs helped to give each data set its own personality.

Transforming numbers into living art

The challenge was to take raw data, something that would usually not interest the public, and transform it into a creation that was visually captivating and could be understood intuitively.

Berrett used his diverse background in visual effects, graphic design, motion graphics and media art to curate meaningful data sets and transformed them into intriguing motion graphics visualisations.

One of the most unique aspects of the project is that it allows viewers to see what is happening across their city in real time.

Motion graphics are usually created in timeline-based applications, making this impossible, but Three Corners of the City uses a game engine instead.

The team designed the standalone real-time application from scratch. It uses the foot traffic in each suburb to determine the density, colour intensity, speed, and direction of the particles that make up the visualisations.

These multifaceted visuals make it intuitive to relate peaks and troughs in the data to a suburb’s respective movement and ‘busy-ness’.

This was particularly important to ensure the visualisation was accessible across language barriers for the City of Casey’s multicultural community.

A motion artwork created from real-time data visualisation of human movements around the city of Casey

The project encouraged people to consider the visualisations through their own lens.

Recognition on a local, national and international level

The project has won three prestigious awards: a Victoria Premier’s Design Award, an Australian Good Design Award, and a DNA Paris Design Award.

The awards have recognised the unique use of motion graphics to communicate real-time data to a diverse audience in a digestible and engaging manner.

The Good Design Awards jury compared the work to that of critically acclaimed artist, Refik Anadol.

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