aRt with R


First created in August 2020, for the Office for National Statistics, for use in their protected learning within the Economic Statistics Group (ESG). The aim of this workshop and teaching resources is to provide a creative, procedural and non-code or mathematically heavy introduction to data visualisation within R, through the production of artistic designs. This is design to provide a positive introduction to data visualisation without extensive previous knowledge of mathematics (beyond high school), programming (in R) or data visualisation. Whilst providing plenty or structured room for exploration and experimentation.

As of November 2020, this workshop was reduced to 90 minutes, to which the slides have been provided. However the practical is aimed to be self-guided and can take as long as is required.

Session Objectives

  • To be introduced to the R Universe, in particular the tidyverse and ggplot2.
  • To be able to code something artistic in R.
  • To begin to think more creatively regarding code, and data analysis.
  • To consider the beauty of code, mathematics and patterns.

Transferable Skills

  • Basic introduction to the use of R and the tidyverse.
  • Basic visualisation techniques using ggplot2.
  • Creative Problem solving and debugging.

Why Creativity?

When considering any programming languages (R or Python), there may feel like a lack of room for creativity, that is to say little or no room for a creative process to take place. Since the procedures which take place, exist within a black-box, where input is fed in, producing a specific output each time. Although this idea is largely true, I would argue that this does not prevent us from thinking, designing and generating creative outputs from these procedural techniques rather means we must behave differently to achieve them.

Some of my personal favorite art work in this area comes from the cognitive scientist Danielle Navarro, who uses a mixture of R and C++ to generate her work.