Information Design Watch

February 26, 2010, 3:34 pm

Man as Industrial Palace Animation

By Lisa Agustin

We sometimes use “little people”  to depict complex processes, with multiple actors participating in a real-life process (e.g., online collaboration or editorial workflow).  But little people can also be used to illustrate processes as they might be imagined.  Physician and science writer Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) often used the man-as-machine analogy to show functions and features of the human body.  One of Kahn’s most famous works is the “Man as Industrial Palace” poster from 1927.  Designer Henning Lederer brings the poster to life with this clever animation that illustrates several systems of the human body, including respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and nervous.

Read more about Lederer’s project: http://www.industriepalast.com/

(via Flowing Data)

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

February 20, 2010, 10:42 am

Visualizing More Affordable Care

By Henry Woodbury

The February 2010 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology features work by Dynamic Diagrams for an article titled Alternatives to a Routine Follow-Up Visit for Early Medical Abortion. The article describes a protocol for assessing a woman’s health after an abortion without routine use of ultrasonography. To quote from the abstract:

We constructed five model algorithms for evaluating women’s postabortion status, each using a different assortment of data. Four of the algorithms (algorithms 1–4) rely on data collected by the woman and on the results of the low-sensitivity pregnancy test. Algorithm 5 relies on the woman’s assessment, the results of the pregnancy test, and follow-up physician assessment (sometimes including bimanual or speculum examination).

A sponsor of the study, Gynuity Health Products, asked Dynamic Diagrams to visualize the data. Our explanation shows the results for the current standard of care and five algorithms tested by the researchers. For each approach we show the total number of cases, the number of women returning to a clinic for a follow-up visit, and the number of women receiving a follow-up ultrasound. In contrasting colors we show specific additional treatment cases in two columns; those identified by the protocol on the left vs. those not necessarily identified by the protocol on the right. In large type we provided the percentage of the number of follow-up ultrasounds to the total number of cases. This combination of rich data points and a key percentage makes it easy to compare the effectiveness of each algorithm. A sample of this visual language (without labels) is shown below:

Alternatives to a Routine Follow-Up Visit for Early Medical Abortion, Figure 2

While we cannot reprint the full text of article, we can provide the visual explanation used as Figure 2: Algorithms identifying women who received additional care after medical abortion (PDF, 409K).

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Charts and Graphs, Dynamic Diagrams News, Infographics, Information Design, Scholarly Publishing, Visual Explanation

February 19, 2010, 12:11 pm

Life in One Cubic Foot

By Lisa Agustin

Sometimes the simplest visual explanations are the most powerful.  Case in point:  David Liittschwager’s series of photographs in which he shows how much life can be found in one cubic foot. Liittschwager’s team visited five diverse environments including Central Park, New York and Moorea, French Polynesia.  At each location, the team used a 12-inch metal-framed cube to carve out a mini-ecosystem, then observed the plants and animal life that moved in and out of the space, down to one millimeter.  In all, more than a thousand individual organisms were photographed.  Says Liittschwager: “It was like finding little gems.”  Seeing the inhabitants of each environment assembled together, the sheer volume of the collection is awe-inspiring.  One improvement I’d like to suggest: to give each environment some context, I’d like to see the specimens arranged by groups or the layers in which they were found.  Be sure to check out the videos that show how the team documented each eco-system.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Photography, Visual Explanation

February 17, 2010, 3:33 pm

Next Steps for Augmented-Reality Maps

By Lisa Agustin

Fresh from the TED2010 conference: an amazing talk by Blaise Aguera y Arcas, an architect at Microsoft Live Labs, in which he demonstrates how Photosynth software is transforming cartography into a user experience: first by stitching static photos together to create zoomable, navigatable spaces, then with superimposed video for a swear-you-are-there experience.  Not to be missed.

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Maps, Technology, User Experience

February 16, 2010, 9:47 am

Old Search Engines Never Die…

By Henry Woodbury

Jacob Gube at design site Six Revisions uses the Way Back Machine to create a “then and now” piece on search engines. It’s worth a look, just for the screenshots. Chrome and content tell a story. For most of those still around, lots of chrome and lots of links have faded away, replaced by minimal chrome and minimal links.

HotBot and WebCrawler are still around. They look like Google.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Technology, Web Interface Design

February 15, 2010, 4:01 pm

Cressey Performance Web Site Relaunches

By Henry Woodbury

Our latest web site design is for Cressey Performance in nearby Hudson, Massachusetts. Cressey Performance is a weight-training gym with an international reputation for its work with competitive athletes, from youth sports to professionals. Directed by the highly-respected Eric Cressey, the facility is a go-to training destination for professional baseball players, including Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox, as well as other elite athletes such as 2010 USA Olympic Bobsledder Bree Schaaf.

The site is designed around a tight core of informational pages about the facility, while a new CP Blog provides an ongoing venue for current news, training videos, and links to the top stories at the separate blogs maintained by Eric Cressey and staff nutritionist Brian St. Pierre.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Dynamic Diagrams News, Sports, Web Interface Design

February 5, 2010, 2:07 pm

Brainstorming A History of the World

By Lisa Agustin

Rattle offers its first blog post on developing the user experience strategy for “A History of the World,” the companion web site for the BBC Radio 4 series of the same name.  Written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, the radio program travels through two million years to tell the history of humanity through 100 handmade objects from the Museum, ranging from a stone chopping tool to the cell phone.  The web site enables exploration of these objects in detail, but also gives users the opportunity to participate by commenting on the collection or uploading images from their own personal collections.  Rattle’s initial post walks us through general principles from their brief (e.g., “some use of participatory media”), the resulting strategic goals (e.g., “focus on attracting, rewarding, and promoting a small minority of contributors”), and its initial brainstorm of features (e.g., “select 10 objects to represent the History of Me”).  Now that the site is live, it will be interesting to read future installments to see how these initial high-level goals and blue-sky thinking compare to what was actually developed.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Information Architecture, Information Design, User Experience

February 2, 2010, 1:21 pm

Easy = True

By Henry Woodbury

An interesting article on “cognitive fluency” offers this great (ironic) infographic:

Easy = True

Reporter Drake Bennett leads with the fact that “shares in companies with easy-to-pronounce names do indeed significantly outperform those with hard-to-pronounce names.” He continues:

Other studies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process – even totally nonsubstantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it – can alter people’s judgment of the truth of the statement, along with their evaluation of the intelligence of the statement’s author (my emphasis).

However, the flip side of easy equals true — or “an instinctive preference for the familiar” as Bennett defines the concept — is that to generate reflection or curiosity, you may need to make things less familiar. It’s a good thing we know how to do both.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Cognitive Bias, Information Design, Language, Marketing, Typography

February 2, 2010, 9:43 am

Rendered in Neat Circles

By Henry Woodbury

Popular Science links to another interesting information graphic on space exploration. This one, designed by Michael Paukner, illustrates the number of human-created objects orbiting Earth — and assigns responsibility:

Space Debris Circles

You can view larger versions on Paukner’s Flickr page.

The title of my post comes from the Popular Science URL: see-space-debris-cloud-surrounding-earth-rendered-neat-circles. Ironically, this summarizes the problem with the visualization. Despite the attractiveness of the graphic, the neat circles show linear values by area, making precise comparisons completely impossible.

The donut shapes created by the overlapping circles also confuse comparison. Take a quick look at the darkest circles– that for space debris — around the United States and Russia. The United States is bigger, but by what order of magnitude? We see a lot more black — a thicker torus– but the actual ratio is just 1.2 to 1.

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