Information Design Watch
July 9, 2004, 3:47 pm
An interesting article in the New York Times discusses the aesthetic and social implications of Gotham, the typeface used to engrave the Freedom Tower cornerstone that memorializes the events of September 11, 2001.
Different commentators see the typeface as simple, urban, ambiguous and, in its all-caps presentation, institutional.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/08/nyregion/08blocks.html?8hpib (registration required)
July 9, 2004, 3:46 pm
U.K. designer Martin Kay has taken the Harry Beck map of the London Underground and turned it into a template for process diagramming:
“The standard box, circle and arrow style of flowchart is the main style of process map used in business, but these are often poorly produced and even with good ones, you do not get the users saying ‘I want one’. The tube-map style creates really good process awareness because people just like looking at them. Adhere to the design principles and you create familiarity even if the process itself is unfamiliar to the user — especially if they are someone who uses the London tube to get to work!”
It’s a quirky idea that brings up some interesting points. Successful visual explanations often build upon a viewer’s experience with such visual tools as maps, graphs, and charts. Reusing a well known visual model can be an efficient way to present data with a similar structure and may reveal unexpected possibilities as the model is tailored to the task at hand. Other data sets demand a completely new approach. When this happens, the challenge is developing a visual system that still triggers a viewer’s intuitive understanding.
July 9, 2004, 3:44 pm
Using data from the 2000 U.S. Census, the Modern Language Association has created an application that ties the number of speakers of different languages to an interactive map of the United States.
Unfortunately, by visualizing absolute instead of per capita numbers, the map often highlights population density more than language concentration. At the national scale, the most definitive results come from choosing a regional language such as French Creole. For other languages, the most interesting results can come from focusing on a single city or region, with data mapped to zip code.
Beyond a per capita presentation, the map would most benefit from a visual methodology for multivariate display. This would make it easier to compare multiple languages in a specific region (the current application shows two maps side by side). It would also create the potential for language data to be indexed to other types of census data, such as income, family size, median age, and so forth.
July 9, 2004, 4:42 am
According to designer Philip van Allen, the Internet could and should be far more interactive. Users need new tools to act as producers of meaning, rather than a passive consumers of information. The goal is what van Allen calls “productive interaction”:
“In contrast to traditional media, productive interaction’s strength is facilitating and provoking the dialog. It enables juxtaposition, and supports the remixing of the actual content.
“Productive interaction gives the reader a pair of scissors and permission to cut up the book.”
Beyond an examination of data structures, increased collaboration between designers and software programmers, and the rethinking of authoring systems, van Allen calls for a broad commitment to experimentation:
“Interaction designers should devote part of their practice to breaking the common constraints; designing for very large displays, moving away from the ‘mouse crouch,’ incorporating tangible interfaces, and experimenting with new delivery systems.”
A detailed research paper and demo are available from van Allen’s Web site: