Information Design Watch

November 18, 2009, 11:37 am

Geography Awareness Week: November 15-21

By Lisa Agustin

wyoming-map

To kick off this year’s Geography Awareness Week, National Geographic invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory and to label at least three important places.  Visit the online gallery to see who was up to the challenge (pictured above: map of Wyoming by Sen. Michael Enzi (R)–who knew it was so square?).

For more to do, also check out NG’s My Wonderful World, an online resource for promoting global literacy.  The site includes a number of map-based features, including  Google Earth geo-tours, a blog with a global perspective, and a survey to test your global IQ.

(via Cranston Style)

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Comments (3) | Filed under: Current Events, Maps

November 18, 2009, 8:55 am

Resume as Infographic

By Kirsten Robinson

Designer Michael Anderson has created an infographic representation of his resume:

Anderson resume infographic

View the full-size image.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Infographics, Information Design, Visual Explanation

November 17, 2009, 5:16 pm

The Sweet Spot Between Information and Design

By Kim Looney

Trying to explain what information design is to our families and friends, and yes, potential clients, has been an ongoing challenge for us here at Dynamic Diagrams. Verbally, I usually resort to something about creating visual explanations for complex sets of data. But that doesn’t really satisfy anyone.

What Makes Good Information Design?

Information is Beautiful recently took on the same question on their blog. Their visual approach tries to show–with a Venn diagram-in-progress–what information is; what design is; and what happens when these overlap. Not every product of the two entities is a win: some are useless, some are ugly, and some are boring. But, there is a sweet spot where interestingness + function + form + integrity = successful information design.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Design, Diagrams, Information Design

November 17, 2009, 11:27 am

Typography on TV

By Henry Woodbury

The New York Times runs a breezy article on typography mistakes in popular culture which fortunately links to Mark Simonson’s incisive review of the typography in the television show “Mad Men”. Here’s an sample of Simonson’s critique:

These lipstick ads feature Fenice (1980) with Balmoral (1978) for the script caps. Amazone (1958) for the script lowercase is fine here, but the outline looks too much like a modern computer graphics effect (which is what it is).

Belle Jolie Ad from Mad Men

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Typography

November 9, 2009, 3:40 pm

Maps: Fighting Disease and Skewing Borders

By Lisa Agustin

inglehart-weizel-cultural-map

The Freakonomics blog features a short Q/A with Strange Maps creator Frank Jacobs.  His perspective on maps ranging from the beautiful to the bizarre is the subject of the new book Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities. Pictured above: The Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World, which plots “how countries relate to each other on a double axis of values.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Maps

November 9, 2009, 11:20 am

Abstract Berlin

By Henry Woodbury

Christoph Niemann has combined history and personal narrative to tell the story of the Berlin Wall, in words and stunningly simple images:

The Berlin Wall was coming down, and I was flabbergasted

Niemann’s iconic images reference specific events and larger ideas. One image shows an East German border guard hurdling barbed wire to escape into the West. Other images remind me of M.C. Escher’s tessellated patterns, reduced to elemental form. Niemann’s underlying theme is the transformation of a city, history as augury and echo.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Current Events, Illustration, Information Design, Visual Explanation

November 6, 2009, 4:04 pm

Making Your Data Intuitive

By Lisa Agustin

How can we make data intuitive–that is, so it “hits home”?  We’ve posted previously on the technique of making large numbers meaningful by using a clever or shocking image.  But this method has its limitations.  A big number explained with a visual analogy may get people to say “Hey, you’re right, that IS a big number.”  But in order to get the audience to act (rather than just react), it takes extra effort to translate that statistic into something they can relate to on a personal level.

Consider the funding coming through the U.S. government’s Recovery Act: $787 billion. Sure, that sounds like a lot of money.  But is it too much?  Too little?  It depends.  Authors Dan Heath and Chip Heath explain it this way:

How can you relate to this monstrous figure in the daily-life zone?  Well, there are roughly 112 million households in the United States, with a median household income of about $50,000. So an $800 billion stimulus works out to be the rough equivalent of seven weeks’ income for an American household. Is that worth it? By way of comparison, we already work three or four months a year just to pay our federal, state, and local taxes. So maybe this seems like a no-brainer to you: seven weeks’ worth of work to stave off a potential depression. Or maybe you’re appalled. Regardless, we can finally have a real argument, because we have a better idea of what we’re arguing about.

Well said.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Visual Explanation

November 6, 2009, 2:54 pm

Cellphone as Paintbrush

By Lisa Agustin

cell-tango

Cell Tango is an evolving digital installation that dynamically organizes images transmitted by cellphone based on cellphones’ area codes, carriers, time and date of transmission, and participants’ contributed categories and descriptive tags.  Created by artists George Legrady and Angus Forbes, the exhibit is not so much an artist’s vision as it is an audience vision–one that suggests that everyday images taken with your cellphone camera could, in fact, mean something more.  Legrady suggests:

Will cellphone technology transform how we create/use images produced “on the fly”? In what ways do online visual databanks such as Flickr recontextualize the images we create and share? Can such online images be used creatively as components in artistic works that explore the construction of visual narratives through the juxtaposition of sequenced images? What may be relevant implementation of voice annotation to add metadata to images?

Cell Tango will be on display at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA, through December 13.

See also:

George Legrady’s web site

Review of Cell Tango in The Boston Globe

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Photography, Technology

November 6, 2009, 11:58 am

The Virtue of Forgetting

By Henry Woodbury

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, author of the newly published Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, points out that for humans, forgetting is an important way of organizing and prioritizing information. Digital storage, however, has made forgetting almost impossible — yet what is stored is devoid of context and may not apply to the individual of the present.

In an interview with Nora Young on the CBC radio show Spark 90, Mayer-Schönberger elaborates on the cognitive issues of memory and what this means for Google, social networking web sites, and other digital spaces:

Now today there are few human beings who, for biological reasons, cannot forget. What sounds like a blessing, they certainly do remember where they parked their car in a shopping mall. It turns out that they have tremendous difficulties in acting in time, in deciding in time, because they remember all their bad, failed decisions in the past, and therefore hesitate to make a decision in the present.

Because they’re forever tethered to the past, they can’t act, they can’t stay put in the present, and they can’t imagine the future. I fear that with digital comprehensive memory, we might resemble these human beings, and we might lose our ability to act in time….

[I]f you ask young people who share a lot of information on social networking sites, and YouTube, Flickr, and so forth, they still are concerned about their informational privacy….  The problem is in a lot of circumstances, young and older people don’t realize when they share information on the Internet that this information not only is shared with potentially everybody, but that this will also remain accessible potentially for a very long period of time.

Once we begin to become aware of these implications, once we begin to acknowledge and understand that digital memory is comprehensive and enduring, we may become extremely more cautious in what we do online.

Mayer-Schönberger proposes that online information be associated with an expiry date, an idea that is being adopted by some social networking sites:

What I want is a world that is teeming with information sharing and information exchange, of experiences being shared among people, but also a world in which we are aware that information is not endless, but has a life span, just like the yogurt in our refrigerator might expire over time.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Technology

November 6, 2009, 10:35 am

The Final Frontier

By Henry Woodbury

Sean McNaughton of National Geographic and Samuel Velasco of 5W Infographics have produced a majestic map of the nearly 200 lunar, solar, and interplanetary space missions over the past 50 years.

At the National Geographic, the map is presented in a “Zoomify” Flash object.

Better is the full size image placed by Adam Crowe on Flickr.

What I really need is a wall-sized print.

Fifty Years of Exploration

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Illustration, Maps, Visual Explanation

November 5, 2009, 12:25 pm

Follow the Necktie

By Henry Woodbury

It is always interesting to me to see how designers using different methods tackle some of the same visualization challenges that we do. How do you represent an abstract idea like “mobility” or “business”?

Here is Virtualization in Plain English, a marketing video for Intel made by Common Craft.

Still from Virtualization in Plain English

Keep track of that necktie.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Comics, Illustration, Information Design, Technology, Visual Explanation