Data and design
at Air Liquide
October 2016 - September 2017

During the summer of 2016, I was in the process of being hired within a new department at Air&nbps;Liquide, a French global group specialised in industrial gases. The group was igniting a whole new division of the company dedicated to digital innovation. It is constituted of a design studio called the Creative Foundry, another team focussed on data called the Data Factory and several other teams dedicated to transformative projects in different business line and specialities of the group.

I was hired within the Data Factory team to work as a designer on the subject of data visualisations. It took me months to begin to find my design space. Lots of data related subject are highly constrained and revolving around Microsoft and Google solutions leaving to my opinion almost no space for design.

There was a lot of noise during these months at Air Liquide. I learned a lot in this mess. I managed to shift my focus onto what had to my eyes the most value in my work. Thus, over the last months, I gradually focused my work on UI Design and Front-end engineering. Lately I've been working on a prototype aiming at enriching data science projects :

This new approach breaks down to four points :

  • Understanding the challenge of a data science project.
  • Identifying a design opportunity to work on interactive visualisations that will help the data science project.
  • Prepare for a future user centric approach, in other words build the first brick of a new tool that could result from the data science work.
  • Build the first design component and their implementation for a "data design system" if I may say. I'm sure of the feasibility of such a system. Desirability and viability in the eyes of the company is highly questionable though.

I really believe in new ways of bringing together the practice of design and the practice of data science. But the culture at Air Liquide is really far from my values. I know now that to succeed in a company such as Air Liquide I need to invest a lot of time communicating ideas, explaining methods, processes and slowly building up relationships to be more integrated and bring more impact. My guts are telling me to go and see somewhere else for now. I don't feel that being focused on data centric projects is the best angle. I believe in values and convictions. I don't see positively an organisation that wants to rely mostly on empirical processes with data.

That being said, I'm sure that design success lies in this commitment at embarking organisations in new processes, new fields of exploration and thus new results. To be continued ...