Information Design Watch

July 28, 2009, 12:16 pm

“Both stayed close to the mound where the Eagle set down, except for Armstrong’s quick jaunt over to the rim of East Crater to shoot some photos of the outfield.”

By Henry Woodbury

To provide context for the first walks on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, NASA provides us with a map of the Sea of Tranquility superimposed over a baseball diamond. The Lunar Module is situated on the pitchers mound with the activity of the astronauts indicated as tan paths. This shows a blob of extensive activity around the module and a number of longer walks by each astronaut.

Apollo 11 Traverse Map on Baseball Diamond

Created by Thomas Schwagmeier from a suggestion by Eric Jones, the map is part of the NASA Apollo 11 Image Library. To really appreciate the details (including a legible key), click through to the full size version.

What looks like the original for the overlay is Schwagmeier’s elegant rendition of the “Traverse Map” — Figure 3-16 from the Apollo 11 Preliminary Science Report. The two maps are shown side-by-side below. As with the baseball overlay, click through to the full size versions to see all the detail.

Apollo 11 Traverse Map by Thomas Schwagmeier Apollo 11 Travers Map, Scientific Report

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Current Events, Infographics, Information Design, Maps, Technology, Visual Explanation

July 20, 2009, 12:12 pm

Cloudy Predictions

By Henry Woodbury

In the New York Times, Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain voices his objections to cloud computing. Zittrain brings up obvious privacy and security concerns, but then makes the case for a more fundamental risk:

But the most difficult challenge — both to grasp and to solve — of the cloud is its effect on our freedom to innovate. The crucial legacy of the personal computer is that anyone can write code for it and give or sell that code to you — and the vendors of the PC and its operating system have no more to say about it than your phone company does about which answering machine you decide to buy. Microsoft might want you to run Word and Internet Explorer, but those had better be good products or you’ll switch with a few mouse clicks to OpenOffice or Firefox.

While Zittrain does well to call out Apple and its approach to iPhone apps in a later paragraph, he missteps here. Apple long outdid Microsoft in its corporate control over the peripherals and software that would run on its hardware. As for Microsoft, only an anti-trust case forced the giant software maker to share its application programming interfaces with third-party developers.

Given the holes in Zittrain’s alternate history, his fears about the freedom to innovate in the cloud have to convince on their own merits — and they do not. Facebook does not control the Internet, nor does the iPhone dominate the smart phone market (ever heard of the Blackberry?) While Facebook, Amazon, or Google could turn into “a handful of gated cloud communities whose proprietors control the availability of new code” the underlying infrastructure is out of their control in a way that was never true of the old PC world.

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Business, Technology

July 9, 2009, 12:46 pm

How Do You Describe a Design?

By Kirsten Robinson

Last week at Dynamic Diagrams we were working on a new exercise to help clients articulate their design personality for web sites. We were brainstorming a bunch of adjective pairs to describe various dimensions, such as warm / cool, simple / sophisticated, industrial / organic.

Then I came across this story in the New York Times, about a whimsical store called Pylones. One paragraph described the design of the store and its merchandise this way:

If you were to secretly dose the celebrated Japanese artist Takashi Murakami with LSD, spin him around in a swivel chair, bounce him on a trampoline, then repeatedly hit him over the head with a piñata, the interior of this store would be his hallucination.

I really liked this description, but I’m not sure how to translate it into an exercise for clients. Mad Libs, maybe?

If you were to secretly dose [famous person] with [controlled substance], [transitive verb] him/her around in a [noun], [transitive verb] him on a [noun], then repeatedly [transitive verb] him/her over the [body part] with a [noun], your web site design would be his/her [type of illusion].

Anyone care to try filling in the blanks?

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Creativity, Design, Language

July 3, 2009, 9:39 am

Innovation at Wimbledon

By Henry Woodbury

Britain's Andy Murray serves to Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland under the closed roof on Centre Court, during their match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, on June 29. (Kieran Doherty/Reuters)

The most visible innovation is the retractable roof over Centre Court.

But this year’s Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club is also host to several IT innovations, most dramatically a smartphone application that superimposes match data on top of the phone’s video display.

IBM, Wimbledon’s long-term IT partner, developed the “Seer Android” app for the T-Mobile G1 mobile phone:

Pointing a G1 phone at a court, for example, would tell the user the court number, details of the current and previous matches and Twitter comments from experts and players, such as Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

The championship’s first official Twitter feeds are also up and running at @Centre_Court and @Wimbledon.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Current Events, Sports, Technology