Creating Art with Time

Hey! It’s Fabian. I’m a developer at Datawrapper. This week I got inspired to make art.

Since the beginning of the month, Nadieh Bremer started to post amazing drawings that she created with a plotter. Nadieh is a Dutch data visualization designer and astronomer who creates awesome visualizations (check out her portfolio). When seeing her tweets I thought: “This can be done with Datawrapper!”

I researched a little and found out that Nadieh was plotting curves created by a harmonograph. A harmonograph is a mechanical device (video) that uses pendulums to create geometric images – but it doesn’t have to be mechanical. Thanks to Wikipedia, I found formulas to calculate the path of a harmonograph and implemented a simulation. What you can see here are some paths a pendulum can take over time, visualized with Datawrapper:

What you see here are six individual Datawrapper charts. Some weeks ago David showed us how Datawrapper can be used for small multiples, and this method is perfect for my little art display.

If you are wondering what chart type I used to create these lines of harmony, you guessed right: They are Line Charts Scatterplots. My favorite and the most versatile visualization type. The lines are created with the Custom lines and areas feature.

How it’s made

It took me a minute to visualize and publish every harmonograph in Datawrapper – the more complicated part was getting the data, exploring, and finding nice shapes. I used Observable to prototype a harmonograph simulation in Javascript based on formulas from Wikipedia.

Check out my Observable Notebook and play around with the sliders to create your own harmonograph! Below all the sliders you find the data to import into Datawrappers custom lines and areas feature. After importing to Datawrapper you only need to style your line a little. I used the following attributes:

@color:transparent @stroke:#663366 @opacity:0.8 @width:0.5

Feel free to create one for yourself and show it to me on Twitter (@sto3psl)!


That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading how math and physics can create pretty shapes, and that it sparked some interest to use Datawrapper for art. If you want to start, hover over the charts above and click on “Edit this chart” to get right into the chart creation process. We’ll see you next week!

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