Advisor Manuel Lima featured in Correio dos Açores
Manuel Lima is an active voice in the area of information visualization, having spoken at numerous conferences, festivals and universities around the world, such as TED, Lift, OFFF, Eyeo, Ars Electronica, IxDA Interaction, Harvard, MIT, Royal College of Art, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, ENSAD Paris, University of Amsterdam, MediaLab Prado Madrid.
His work has been mentioned in several magazines and newspapers, including WIRED, New York Times, Science, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fast Company, Creative Review, Eye, Grafik, Étapes, El País, Visão, Expresso and Diário de Notícias.
His first book, "Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information", launched in 2011, has been translated to french, chinese and japanese. His latest book, "The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge", published in April 2004 by Princeton Architectural Press, in New York, explores over 800 years of visual culture through the figure of the tree, since its roots in medieval exegesis to many of its contemporary, secular and digital branches.
With over 10 years experience in creating digital products, Manuel Lima has worked for Microsoft, Nokia, R/GA and Kontrapunkt. Manuel graduated in Design, at School of Architecture of Technical University Lisbon and, in 2005, completed his master in Designs and Technology at Parsons Schools of Design, New York.
For this purpose, he has received three scholarships, from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Luso-Americana Foundation and a Dean's Scholarship from Parsons School of Design. During his masters, Manuel Lima worked with Siemens Corporate Research Center, American Museum of Moving Image, and Parsons Institute of Information Mapping in research projects for National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency.
In an interview recently published (May 2014) in Revista, from Expresso, Manuel Lima explains why someone who became famous in design writes about trees and knowledge: "During my research for my first book, “Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information”, I found the amazing story of the tree as a communication tool and I decided to write a second book on this fascinating model of visualization. I used the method of reverse engineering to go back eight centuries, returning in time to find the common origin of the bifurcations. This way, we get an evolutionary map and a better understanding of the context and main determinants of a model."
Manuel Lima explains Christiana Martins how trees are central to the organization of thought. Asked if the tree structure will continue to be used in the future to organize information, Manuel Lima states he has no doubt about it. "In the book we can see how the first image, from 1202, and the last one, from 2002, even though separated by more than 800 years and having completely different subjects, are still united by this archetype. Even more important were the tree models that appeared later, some in the last decade, with a more abstract style, losing many of its embellishments. And some of the contemporary models are fundamental in information visualization."
As for the use of tree instead of other symbols, Manuel Lima explains that "the human being has a very special relationship with the tree. Though surrounded by glass, iron and asphalt, for thousands of years we have depended on trees as a source of food, shelter, energy, materials and weapons, to survive. This symbiotic relationship may explain why it's almost impossible to find a religion or civilization that doesn't have any reverence for trees. In ancient Sumeria, people believed in a holy tree that lived in paradise and was guarded by a serpent. Similar concepts abound in the main religions and we can see the same idea in Latin America. The Mayans, for example, believed in a holy tree uniting three worlds (the underground, terrestrial and celestial)."
His latest book is even considered a "compendium" written by an Azorean, which received generous reviews in several international journals. “New Scientist”, “Wired” and “Fast Company” praised “The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge”, published in April by Manuel Lima, chosen in 2009 as one of the 50 most creative and influential people in the world by american magazine "Creativity".
Regarding the reviews, and the fact that he's getting so many positive ones on his latest book, this Azorean explains that "it tells a story that was unknown until now, revealing the evolution of one of the most popular visual metaphors ever, which withstood wars and disasters and survived the rise and fall of numerous empires. And because it demystifies the current tendency to overvalue the immediate and new, through a serious reflection on the avant-garde and inspiring work of visualization developed in the past.
But some call him "nonconformist". In June 5, 2014, Visão magazine mentioned that the route of Manuel began "with a failure". Since he was a young boy, Manuel, who is now 36, has always shown an unusual curiosity, according to his mother. "We traveled a lot and he was really interested in the museums, the architecture of the cities. Besides, he always showed and willingness to do more and better, even though he was always a good students. The exam to enter university didn't go so well and Manuel ended up not going to Architecture but Architecture Design, where he had a successful career and was considered one of the most creative and influential minds".
According to the same medium, "persistence allowed Manuel Lima to dive in bookstores and museums around the world (mostly virtually) in order to gather the information and wonderful images that fill his new book", which, according to the author, represented a year of intense work.
Manuel Lima was born in São Miguel, studied in Lisbon and USA, did an internship in Denmark and ended up in New York. As he told Visão, "whenever life seemed comfortable, I'd jump into a new adventure. I left a promising job at Nokia (when it was the leader of mobile phones) to devote myself, for six months, to the writing of my first book. In 2001, I moved to New York and I was hired by Microsoft, leading the group of Bing designers. With a good salary, in a successful company, I was missing the challenge and I decided to look for it in a startup with ten employees, Code Academy. One year later, the company of distance training has thirty employees and 24 million users".
Manuel Lima says "the hardest thing is to transform the information into knowledge", but that's exactly what he intends to do with his "Book of Trees", where he praises the tree diagram as a way of presenting information. From Charles Darwin to the Jewish followers of Kabbalah or Buddhists, the tree presentation has been used through time and space.
Concerning the site he created, Visual Complexity, Manuel Lima, according to Visão, "shows network systems, such as London Underground, for example, or Twitter connections. Seeing the world in diagrams helps understanding many things. For example, the impact of the Japanese earthquake in this social network". Manuel Lima spends a great part of his time in lectures or guiding workshops - he was recently in Lisbon, in Champalimaud Foundation - showing scientists or managers how information processing can help solving problems.
To our story, Manuel Lima added that, even though he's not sure if they will be available in the azorean bookstores, he thinks it will be possible to find them in some national websites, such as fnac.pt and wook.pt. Regarding invitations to present his work in Azores, Manuel Lima says he had one invitation to go to Faial and two to São Miguel ( one of which he was present, in 2009).