One of the sounds I enjoy hearing at work is the sound of laughter. I work in market research and we have demanding deadlines. Lots of people are stressed, but yet they still find the spirit and time to laugh. This really fascinated me and I wanted to capture this moment. How do I measure this short but intense moment of positivity? I decided to measure the frequency of laughter. This is a visualization of laughter I recorded in one of our busiest times of the year, from October 2017 to December 2017.
Some key trends you might notice going through this is that the number of laughs decrease over time. This may be due to various factors such as busier workloads in the office, and people taking time off for vacation. Another subtle factor is that as I got busier, I started to tune things out in my surroundings. When something stresses you out, you start missing out on things that are happening in your life, good or bad. This is a unique finding because it is a balance between sensation and perception. Some people will see the cup half empty or half full depending on their mental state and this whole project is a metaphor for that. Life isn’t always clear, exciting, or fun, but there are moments when all that dissolves, even for a moment, it’s just a matter of capturing that in our day-to-day life.
Target audience: General public.
Key objective: Show the positive work culture at the office I worked at by showing the number of laughs I heard.
One of the days I observed a high number of laughs was when we had social events, like the Thanksgiving potluck on Oct 4. When you put many people together with homemade food, it’s the perfect formula for joy. One of my most favourite times of the day is having dinner with my family. We talk about mundane things, share something funny we saw on social media, and talk about everything else. Meal times are a time when we spend time together and share a laugh. Like many other cultures, Chinese culture has a strong emphasis on eating together. The next time you are at a traditional Chinese restaurant, you might find a large round table. These tables are round by design, it allows for everyone to face each other. It is a shape that brings people in and together. The exercise of counting the laughs I hear in a day has made me notice how often I do laugh when I am with my family. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find if you did a count the next time you are with friends or family.
This project is a reflection on how we enjoy life despite challenges we face. One of my co-workers has worked at our company for a long time (20+ years), and he has the heartiest laugh in the whole company. I asked him what’s his secret. He said he suffered from a near fatal accident in his youth and that changed him. His attitude towards life changed as he decided to become happier because life is too short. His positivity and perseverance to lead a good life reminds me of my mom. She has seen so much, good and bad, and she would sometimes say to me “I’ve had more salt than you’ve had rice”, as a way to express how much longer she has lived than me. Her work ethic never ceases to shock me, she still works 12+ hours a day even after 20 years of owning her own business. Yet, she never complains and still has the heart and energy to laugh with life
I collected data for about a month on index cards. Whenever I heard a laugh, I added it to my tally.
I occasionally get inspiration by looking at photos from the National Geographic. At the time, I saw some images of a canyon and there were these amazing in the rocks. I started drawing them for ideas.
I also browse Behance for ideas and I came across this fun and colourful video. It set helped set the tone for this project. This video is by Hoya H, this was a student project from South Korea. This video felt so bubbly and happy. I started drawing circles as a shape, circles are round and harmless. They feel safe and welcome. This captured the whole concept of positivity and laughter. When we laugh, our body opens up, we move around and take up more space. We become rounder and embrace the moment.
The ideas I drew from the canyons morphed into these circles with lines that cut across them.
I chose warm colours, which were orange and yellow. Initially, I wanted to capture the number of laughs I heard in a day. But as I collected data, I realized that laugh was extremely contagious. When one person laughs, people nearby pick up the vibe and sometimes join in. Below are some early iterations I drew up in Illustrator.
One of the challenges with making a data visualization is coming up with a good title. I started thinking about comedy and its role in our life. I then remembered the pianist Victor Borge. I saw some of his comedic videos several years ago and it was so much fun to see. He said a great quote that made me realize why he did what he did:
Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
This quote seemed so perfect for this piece. It quickly and easily captured the spirit of why I made it.