As we prepare for the inaugural AIGA Eye on Design Conference, we meet some of our esteemed speakers to find out more about them, their work, and what you can expect from them on the big day.

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Mona Chalabi is an illustrator, the data editor of Guardian US, and has presented TV shows for the BBC, National Geographic, Channel 4, and Vice. She began to write about statistics after analyzing large data sets in her roles at the Bank of England, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Transparency International, and the International Organization for Migration, and today her drawings and graphics aim to make numbers more relatable. 

Who are you? Tell us 3 quick things about yourself and the work you do.

  1. I try to take the numb out of numbers. I’m left with loads of ers.
  2. Me and Mae Ryan made a four-part video series about vaginas.
  3. Items 1 and 2 are not necessarily related. I love keeping my career diverse.

You’re working across three interesting worlds––data, design, and writing. What have been some of the challenges that come with that, and that you’ve faced in presenting data in a coherent and beautiful way?

It’s tough to simplify and add nuance. That nuance is so important—if you just present the data as a single statistic it’s boring because people can’t relate to it. It doesn’t capture their own experiences (which are almost always above or below that average).

How do you think data and design are combating the proliferation of fake news?

I think to combat fake news, we have to show our workings. Journalists can’t simply say “trust me, I’m right,” but “this is how I got to this conclusion and you can repeat my steps.” Math can be great for that, especially if you can be honest enough to admit that your answers really aren’t all that precise. Statistics still involve a bunch of assumptions and it’s the responsibility of people like me to be transparent about what those assumptions are. 

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