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Hot 20 2010: Aaron Koblin, Technology Lead at Google Creative Lab

Photography by John Lee

Aaron Koblin, 28
Technology lead, Google Creative Lab

Aaron Koblin has a hard time explaining his job. He thinks of himself as more of an architect than an artist, someone in the business of making data beautiful and accessible. In his day-to-day, he uses crowd-sourcing to construct stunning visuals from a flood of information.

He describes his current position at Google as “a lot of playing around with crazy technologies in bizarre ways with amazing people.” His credentials don’t end with his day job though. Koblin’s Flight Patterns, a stunning digital illustration of air traffic patterns over North America, is on permanent view at MoMA in New York. He’s also won first place for science visualization from the National Science Foundation, created a music video with Radiohead, and helped launch Google’s Chrome Experiments, a website showcasing JavaScript work by designers and programmers from around the world.

Amid the trend of accessible global information, he hopes future projects make data more relevant, giving people insight into their lives. “We should make interfaces that are greater than the sum of their parts, that strive for more than efficiency, but also enjoyment.”

When he’s not switching time zones (in one week he had a gallery showing in Portland and a project wrap-up in New York), the Hayes Valley resident can be found ordering German fare at Suppenküche or catching up on new coding methods—his idea of relaxation. “I’ve got a number of friends in SF who aren’t tech-obsessed at all, but those who are, really are,” says Koblin. “It’s a good place for someone like me.”