Exploring the Data Visualization Landscape: S-H-O-W 2023 Conference Highlights

Graphic Hunters recently organized the highly anticipated S-H-O-W Conference, a captivating two-day event held in the vibrant heart of Utrecht on 1-2 June 2023. Showcasing a convergence of data visualization luminaries and enthusiasts, this immersive conference effortlessly intertwined the realms of creativity, data, and design, fostering a dynamic community of practitioners.

A diverse array of attendees, including professionals, researchers, artists, and students from a wide spectrum of disciplines, converged with a shared ardor for visually expressing data in innovative and impactful ways.

Throughout the conference, an esteemed lineup of national and international speakers captivated the audience with their visionary work and profound insights. With a call to transcend conventional thinking, they emboldened participants to fearlessly explore uncharted territories, pushing the boundaries of data visualization.

Their mesmerizing presentations demonstrated the astonishing metamorphosis of data into stunning maps, articles, photography, cultural collections, harnessing the power of imagination and innovation.

S-H-O-W was far from a passive experience; it embraced active engagement, beckoning attendees to partake in interactive workshops that fostered collaboration and unleashed creative exploration. Amidst these shared experiences, lasting connections were forged, ideas freely exchanged, and a vibrant community took shape, nurturing the personal and professional growth of nearly 200 attendees.

A photo of the conference room, where seats are in a semi-circle around a lectern and a screen.
The historic Anatomiegebouw in Utrecht, formerly part of the University of Utrecht, offers a captivating setting for the S-H-O-W conference. Designed by architect Joseph Crouwel, this architectural gem originally served as a theater for veterinary anatomy lectures and has since been repurposed to host conferences. It provides attendees with a truly immersive and memorable experience.


At the heart of this conference lies a captivating theme that drives the essence of exploration and growth: Play-Pause-Stop. Symbolizing the dynamic nature of the creative process, these three elements intertwine to shape our journey into the world of design, data, and innovation.

Play represents the exuberance of experimentation and uninhibited exploration, unlocking new possibilities and fostering unexpected connections and novel ideas.

Pause invites us to engage in reflection and introspection, urging us to step back, evaluate our work, and consider its impact. Through this deliberate pause, we refine our creations, elevating them to higher levels of meaning and purpose.

Stop marks the gateway to new beginnings and future explorations, serving as a catalyst for fresh starts and opportunities. It empowers us to embrace change, adapt our approaches, and embark on transformative journeys of discovery.

The concept of Play-Pause-Stop serves as the cornerstone of this year’s conference, highlighting the importance of striking a balance between active exploration, mindful reflection, and deliberate action. By embracing these three interconnected elements, we can harness our creativity effectively and achieve optimal outcomes in our work.


The conference featured an impressive lineup of speakers, each sharing their unique experiences in data visualization. During the first half, Michael Brenner, Beatrice Gobbo, Mark-Jan Bludeau, and Olivia Vane shared their insights, ranging from ways to express, communicate, and interpret data to AI explainability.

Olivia Vane walked through a behind-the-scenes look at how data is visually modeled at The Economist. Like any other in data visualization, she talked about crafting narratives with data graphics and balancing visual appeal with clarity. Vane emphasized the importance of simplification in visualizing data. She highlighted that in an era of information overload, it is crucial to distill complex data into easily understandable visuals and narratives. 

This can bridge the gap between data and its audience, ensuring the insights conveyed are accessible and actionable. Vane showcased a range of examples where she applied this principle in her work, ranging from topics like pop music to dog breeds. She transformed complex datasets into intuitive visualizations that effectively communicate the underlying story. 

Through carefully selecting visuals and storytelling techniques, Vane demonstrated how to capture the audience’s attention and facilitate comprehension by focusing on the most relevant data points.

A photo of Olivia Vane at the lectern. The screen behind her says "Data Visualization at the Economist"
Olivia Vane, data visualization expert and speaker at the S-H-O-W 2023 conference, captivating the audience with her insights on crafting narratives with data graphics and the importance of simplification in visualizing complex information. Photograph by Tessa Pino.

The second half of the conference featured a diverse range of speakers, including Mushon Zer-Aviv, Leticia Pozza, Nadieh Bremer, and Manuel Lima. Their presentations added to the rich tapestry of topics and ideas discussed, encompassing areas such as data products and ethical data visualization.

Manuel Lima‘s thought-provoking talk delved into the concept of irresponsible design by exploring the content of his last book The New Designer. He explored how data visualization can contribute to desensitization and the phenomenon of “number numbness,” highlighting the need to address and mitigate these effects. 

He emphasized the tendency to adhere to norms rather than question the ethical implications inherent in data visualization practices. He further stressed the importance of considering the larger context throughout the design process, cautioning against losing sight of the big picture.

Lima drew attention to the risk of dehumanizing individuals when reducing them to mere data points, underscoring the ethical responsibility to consider the implications of design choices. He also emphasized the significance of not only focusing on the “launches” but also on the “landings” of visualizations, ensuring that their impact and interpretation align with ethical standards.

A photo of Manuel Lima at the lectern. The screen behind him says "How to develop an ethical design practice and build a better world."
Manuel Lima, renowned data visualization speaker at the S-H-O-W 2023 conference, captivating the audience with his thought-provoking talk on irresponsible design and the ethical implications of data visualization. Lima emphasized the importance of considering the larger context and human impact in the design process. Photograph by Tessa Pino.


As the conference’s fifth edition, S-H-O-W 2023 showcased the growing significance of data visualization and its role in various disciplines. S-H-O-W stands as a beacon of inspiration, leaving an indelible mark on the creative landscape. Participants left with a renewed commitment to advancing the field and a desire to attend future editions, eager to contribute and learn from the collective wisdom of the data visualization community.

Propelled forward to a future of limitless possibilities, S-H-O-W instilled in attendees a shared vision for the continued growth and impact of data visualization. The conference served as a catalyst, igniting the passion of its participants and fostering a sense of community and collaboration.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the organizers, especially Goof van de Winkel. Their dedication and hard work made this event a resounding success. The attendees, inspired by the conference and touched by Goof van de Winkel’s leadership, gave him a warm applause at the end of the conference. While the future of the conference may be uncertain, the impact it has had on the data visualization community will be remembered and cherished.

A photo of Dario Rodighiero with students who attended the conference. All are on a balcony, looking down at the photographer.
Dario Rodighiero (second from right) with students who attended the conference.

This article is the result of a collective work by the Data Science and Society bachelor students who were invited by the organizers to attend the conference for free. Under the coordination of their professor, Dario Rodighiero, the students came together to bring you this insightful account. Their combined efforts reflect the spirit of collaboration and dedication that defines the S-H-O-W community. Thanks go to students Alireza Behjoee, Imaji Kasih Ayunda Rizal, Karsjen Koop, Lisell Aare, Silvia Sanguinazzi, Tessa Pino, and Victor Toma, and the program director Oskar Gstrein.

Dario is an Assistant Professor of Sciences and Technology Studies at the University of Groningen, and a faculty associate at Harvard University. His research is rooted in design, data, and humanities; focusing on the mapping of science and more broadly on digital archives of cultural institutions. With Metis Press, in 2021 he authored Mapping Affinities — a book about charting scientific communities from a design-driven, ethical thinking.

A photo of the attendees who contributed to this article. Dario Rodighiero and students look down from a balcony.
University of Groningen Students

Alireza Behjoee, Imaji Kasih Ayunda Rizal, Karsjen Koop, Lisell Aare, Silvia Sanguinazzi, Tessa Pino, and Victor Toma are first-generation students of the Data Science & Society (DSS) bachelor program at Campus Fryslân. As trailblazers in this groundbreaking program, they explored the profound interplay between data, science, and society, mastering technical skills while analyzing the social aspects of datafied decision-making. Armed with a passion for responsible data use and communication, they are poised to shape a data-driven future that benefits all.