Information Design Watch

August 27, 2009, 3:09 pm

Craigslist Makeover

By Matt DeMeis

Wired has a very interesting article up right now. Several well known designers were asked to give hypothetical makeovers to Craigslist. I use CL all the time and honestly, I have never really had a usability problem of any kind. It does what it is meant to do quite well and is a true example of a simple utilitarian web service. I don’t own an iPhone or Blackberry so mobile access hasn’t been an issue for me. That seems to be the biggest argument for some kind of partial redesign (if only for mobile clients). A lot of the designers agree “why fix what’s not broken” (myself included) but it’s still interesting to see the results. Some better than others. My take on the submitted designs…

Favorite: Simple Scott
Least Favorite: Studio8
Middle Ground: Khoi Vinh

Go check it out for yourself…

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Information Design, Usability, User Experience, Web Interface Design

August 26, 2009, 1:29 pm

Mummy of Herakleides

By Henry Woodbury

The Mummy of Herakleides at the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Getty Villa Malibu is an Egyptian mummy from the Roman period (about A.D. 150). To explain the mummification process, the Getty asked Dynamic Diagrams to create a short movie for display in the gallery.

This particular mummy has several unique features, revealed by CT scans, including the removal of the heart (more commonly the lungs were removed) and the placement of a mummified ibis on the abdomen of Herakleides within the final wrapping.

Using 3D modeling software we animated the process by which the nearly 2000-year-old artifact was created. The final cut, with voice over, has now been posted to the Getty web site and YouTube:

A higher resolution version is also available on YouTube.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Dynamic Diagrams News, Visual Explanation

August 24, 2009, 8:52 pm

The Pint Slide Rule

By Henry Woodbury

The "Piaget" Beer GaugeThis is a not a post about a beer gauge. It is a post about cognitive bias. To quote from the item itself: “[Jean] Piaget studied the tendency to focus attention on only one characteristic. In our case: beer height not volume!”

The gauge is the invention of engineer and physicist Chris Holloway. The Wall Street Journal Numbers Guy, Carl Bialik, explains:

Holloway has noticed that the typical pour in a pint glass is less than a pint. And since the widest part of the glass is at the top — nearly twice as wide as the bottom — leaving just the top half-inch of the glass unfilled costs the customer nearly 15% of the pint he’s paying for. So what may look trivial to bartenders and to drinkers, thanks to our tendency to focus on height rather than width when taking the measure of liquids, is a serious tavern injustice.

Readers of Edward R. Tufte will remember that one grave mistake in visualizing data is to show one-dimensional data with two-dimensional graphics:

There are considerable ambiguities in how people perceive a two-dimensional surface and then convert that perception into a one-dimensional number. Changes in physical area on the surface of a graphic do not reliably produce appropriately proportional changes in in perceived areas. The problem is all the worse when the areas are tricked up into three dimensions. (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2001, p. 71.)

Holloway had the reverse challenge — the problem people have perceiving differences in volume. The gauge turns three-dimensional data into a one-dimensional series. It is a portable liquid measure.

I will add that despite the elegance of the Holloway’s concept, the gauge as is could use some design improvement. Holloway has elected to emphasis even numbers of ounces. I’m not sure this helps readability. There’s also no reason to have the 6 oz. label offset from the 6 oz. line. Just make the card a quarter inch longer or so. Nor is there reason for the key or the “Glass edge” and “Beer surface” labels. Instead, replace all of this extra text with a 16 oz. line aligned to the top of the glass that incorporates some minimal description. For example:

16 oz beer / 0% missing
15 oz / 7%
14 oz / 13%

etc.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Cognitive Bias

August 20, 2009, 2:43 pm

3D Modeling of the Old School

By Henry Woodbury

Big wheel bicycle patented in 1879 by Sylvester Sawyer

This is just one artifact from an exhibit of 18th and 19th century U.S. patent models at Harvard University. The exhibit, Patent Republic, is on the second floor of Harvard’s Science Center and is open weekdays through December 11. Wired.com has an article and slideshow.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Current Events, Prototyping

August 20, 2009, 2:10 pm

Election Day

By Henry Woodbury

Afghan Voting Manual: Your Voice Your Vote

Today is polling day in Afghanistan. One document created to aid the process is Your Vote. Your Voice, a 25-page manual that uses graphic novel techniques to teach “adult learners about  issues, candidates, and appraisal of elected officials’ performance.”

It is printed in Dari and Pashto.

(via Boing Boing)

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Comics, Current Events, Illustration

August 19, 2009, 9:50 am

You Are…

By Matt DeMeis

MIT Phd student Aaron Zinman has created an interesting data driven visualization experiment called “Personas”. Simply enter your name and a Flash app scours the web for bits and pieces of information about you. As it does so, its progress is displayed in visual form (albeit at warp speed, so it’s more for “ooh ahh” factor than usefulness). You are then characterized as a colored strip of categories ranging from books, sports, management and aggression to education, legal and illegal (activities?). It’s an interesting experiment. I think it would be great to have a bit more control over the categories and info about the user. Just to help weed out the cruft. As is, it’s probably pretty inaccurate for someone with the name Bob Smith or Michael Jackson. I am curious what our resident Flash maven Piotr would add to it. Go try it out over at the MIT site.

http://personas.media.mit.edu/

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Diagrams, Information Design, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

August 18, 2009, 4:09 pm

“The credits sequence cost more than most films made up to that point.”

By Henry Woodbury

I’m talking about Superman (1978). Here are the opening credits:

Today, this is a student project. Here’s a version by “saucejenkins” done in After Effects for “a Digital Editing & Compositing class”:

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Comments (0) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Technology

August 17, 2009, 3:46 pm

Stop Motion Marketing

By Henry Woodbury

This is a response to a D&AD Student Award “bespoke creative brief” by Hewlett-Packard. Titled HP – invent, it was created by Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth.

I just wish it were longer.

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Art, Design, Marketing, Technology