Tiz & Piero, Market Cafe Magazine
Despites its increasing importance in both digital and print forms, data visualisation is rarely addressed as a creative form. Market Cafe Magazine sets out to change that.
The small, occasional magazine is produced by two Italian data viz designers: Piero Zagami works as an independent in Amsterdam and Tiz Alocci works and teaches in London. The seventh issue of their magazine is out now.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
PIERO: I moved to a new city (Amsterdam) when covid started, so you could say my routine was already changing quite a bit. My routine is now based on almost zero commute: I start with some workout at the local gym or in the park, and then I walk down to my studio in a tiny co-working space in my neighbourhood (grabbing coffee on the way!).
Monday is usually a day for planning, and among other freelance projects we have a magazine weekly call where Tiz and I plan all the tasks mag-related, whether it is planning a workshop, scheduling calls, or drafting the new content plan for the next issue.
TIZ: As Mondays are tough already, I’ve decided to spend each one visiting exhibitions, galleries and museums. I tend to spend the morning in my studio in Hackney sorting emails (slowly) and then hit my bike to go see some art. And the week ahead suddenly doesn’t scare me so much anymore! Covid has completely changed my routine forcing me to work remotely but I try to see the bright side of it: less commute, more time to do the things I enjoy.
Describe your desk and work space.
PIERO: I rent a space in a 10-people co-working space in a residential area of Amsterdam, and I love it! Spacious, and chill, it's the perfect place for me to work, and to chat with dutch and expat coworkers (we’re all freelancers, mostly in creative media and tech). The best part: a beautiful 2m palm tree right in front of my desk to make up for the usually terrible dutch weather!
TIZ: I’m based in Hackney and I used to work in a small studio shared with two creatives, now I’m looking for a more self contained studio space as I need more space for new pieces I’m working on, and all the magazines I collect! Before the pandemic we used to distribute the mag ourselves, packing all the orders and hand numbering all the copies one by one.
Now we work with a fulfilment company to help us with the shipping, less magic but more time efficient! And this means the office is way tidier than ever!
Which magazine do you first remember?
PIERO: Illustration magazine Juxtapoz, and back when I was a kid I used to collect all kinds of comic books. My interest for zines began in high school as older students were making their own personal punk zines and distributing them for less than a dollar at the gates of school. Printed with toner and before the days of Photoshop, I loved how rough and subversive they looked.
TIZ: I fell in love with independent magazines around 15 years ago when I bumped into a few copies of WAD, a bilingual magazine about urban lifestyle/fashion. What striked me the most were the cover design: bold, irreverent photographs, very powerful. I tried to introduce this concept in Market Cafe Magazine, where each cover has a strong typographic approach which is quite unusual for a mag about data visualization.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
PIERO: Holo. If you are into generative art and creative coding, that’s a great mag to have on your shelves, with profile pieces to great artists and a flair for things dark, futuristic and code-based. (New issue of Holo due soon, btw).
TIZ: I can’t help but think about the effects of climate change on our planet everytime I look out of the window and I see the weather doesn’t match with the season we are in. So my mind goes to my favourite magazine about climate change. It's the one and only It's Freezing in LA!
Describe Market Cafe Magazine in three words.
Liberating. Experimental. Intimate.
Please share an example of data visualisation that sums up what excites you about the medium.
PIERO: When I think of imaginative and exciting data visualisation projects I often think of Skye Moret’s Perpetual Plastic, a physical 14m data-driven art installation out of marine debris. It’s compelling, and tackles urgent issues about climate change in original ways.
TIZ: My approach to data visualisation is extremely linked to conceptual art: the idea is more important than the final object. Working on different dataset allows you to learn about different topics, and this is the part I love the most: the learning crusade! I’m fascinated by translating numbers into visuals, and what resonates a lot with my production is the work of Wassily Kandinsky around visualising music through paintings. Definitely not a data visualiser, but everything is connected!
Something I love about your mag is the way it highlights how data is used not only to explain the unknown, but also to link different disciplines. How does experimental work like this feed into your daily practice?
PIERO: It’s a constant source of inspiration and the number one reason why I got into this editorial project. As a practitioner in the field and a data designer myself I feel lucky to be part of a platform that can get us to talk to so many interesting personalities, about their projects and practises.
The conversations we have with them (which then become the core of the articles in the zine) stay with us for days and it’s great to absorb all their knowledge, and try to bring what we learn in our own practice.
TIZ: Everything is connected, and I’m afraid nothing is ‘unique’! A quote that really stuck with me is: “There certainly have been many new things in the world of visualization; but unless you know its history, everything might seem novel.“ by Michael Friendly. Data visualisation is a multidisciplinary subject: the magazine wants to highlight these connections and bring them to the attention of people.
Data visualisation has generally been considered a positive thing—shining light into areas we can't usually see. But with the advent of the big data companies a negative side to such visualisation has become clear. Does that worry you?
PIERO: It was 2011 when I heard the phrase ‘big data’ for the first time, and it seemed like it was going to be the buzzword of the year. More than ten years later, we as a society have become slightly numb to the way data is surrounding us and that can be scary. This is also a reason why being a dataviz designer in this day and age can be exciting, especially if you think that there is a problem in the way we deal with data as individuals.
Everyone can benefit from gaining some degree of data literacy, and data visualisation can help a great deal, in making understanding of complex data less scary. For me the biggest problems with big data companies is with transparency rather than with the visualisation side of things.
TIZ: I work with data but I don’t trust data. As it may sound counterintuitive, the more I spend time playing with data the more I notice its weakness and fallacies. So I try to shift the focus towards how we communicate, as good communication is at the base of everything. I communicate with data, taking in consideration its limitations yet its power to influence people. This makes me feel a little less disillusioned about the use of data.
Please share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication.
PIERO: Set some parameters from the start that will help you stand out, both visually and thematically. For example: only talk about dataviz projects; only print in two colours; only print 1000 copies per issue.
TIZ: Don’t do it for the money because you’ll be disappointed.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
PIERO: a weekend in the mountains!
TIZ: The Francis Bacon exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts.