Lessons Learned From Four Major Projects with Shirley Wu


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Shirley Wu has been freelancer since 2016, creating data visualizations for her clients. In this episode, Shirley talks about the four projects that had the most significant impact on her.

In 2017 Shirley created an interactive visualization of the musical, Hamilton. It blew up on the internet. It was the first time a project of her's had a significant response. It made her realize that code could be beautiful, colorful, and inspiring. The audience might not remember the figures or the writeup, but they will remember the emotional response they had.

Her next project was less fun and a lot more serious. She worked with The Guardian on an investigative journalism piece called Bussed Out. The project was meaningful to her. In the past, she shied away from more serious projects due to a fear of the backlash she'd receive if she didn't do it right. She got to work with a very talented team of journalists who taught her what she was capable of if she teamed up with the right people on important topics.

On a less serious note, Shirley had the privilege of having a visualization be commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The project was to do something with the data from Send Me SFMOMA. This project caused her to reconnect with making art for its own sake.

The most recent influential project was Legends. It was a personal project on the fifty-one female Nobel Prize winners since 1901. With her other digital projects, she is lucky only to get a few minutes of someone's time, but she wanted more than that, she wanted people to linger and be present. So Shirley is now pushing herself to break the boundaries of digital and make moving her visualization into physical space a reality.


Guest: Shirley Wu

Host: Kent C. Dodds

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