Information Design Watch

March 25, 2010, 9:58 am

The Long Shot

By Henry Woodbury

This beautiful diagram, created by Bryan Christie Design for an IEEE Spectrum special report on Mars packs a lot of data into a small space, down to the specifics of the name of each mission.

Yet, with all the data, the overarching story comes through clearly: Up until this decade, most Mars missions failed. Because of the Soviet Union’s dreary record, it is easy, at first to misread orange for failure and blue for success. But a quick check at the labels makes it easy to reorient. Don’t draw the short straw.

Mission(s) to Mars

(via i09)

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

March 19, 2010, 10:38 am

It’s Tournament Time

By Henry Woodbury

The Mens Division I NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket is one of the most iconic images in U.S. sports. Voila:

NCAA Mens Division I Basketball Tournament, 300 Pixels Wide NCAA Mens Division I Basketball Tournament, 150 Pixels Wide NCAA Mens Division I Basketball Tournament, 75 Pixels Wide

So what can an information designer do with this?

Cliff Kuang at Fast Company looked around the web to find out. His selection for “best designed bracket” goes to NBC Sports:

Why? Because it’s a bonafide [sic] infographic–basically a cheat-sheet that allows anyone with only a passing interest in college basketball to sound smart after about five minutes of studying.

The NBC Bracket is here. It’s interactive, but broken. Hey NBC! Fix that absolute positioning.

Update: It’s fixed now.

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Comments (3) | Filed under: Current Events, Diagrams, Information Design, Sports, Web Interface Design

March 17, 2010, 12:06 pm

Your Data is my Distraction

By Henry Woodbury

I recently ran across a still-fresh 2009 Nieman Journalism Lab post on “ambient visual data” — a good term for the practice of graphically incorporating metadata into a content-delivery interface. The most common idea seems to be adding subtle bar charts beneath or around links to illustrate various kinds of popularity.

To explain the importance of the concept, author Haley Sweetland Edwards turns to designer Eliazar Parra Cardenas, creator of Backbars, “a GreaseMonkey script to turn the headlines and comments of social link-sites into ambient bar charts (of votes/diggs/views/users…).” Cardenas explains:

“The whole point is to make textual information easier to absorb… [A well-designed site] should maximize the information that a user can understand — that you can just glance at, or take note of -– without actively thinking….

“We’ve already tried the obvious in print: putting as much text as possible in one glance (hence broadsheets), mixing in images, headlines, columns. I think the next step will be digital developments like backbars, favicons, sparklines, word coloring, spacings.”

Count me as extremely skeptical. The sites that Edwards and Cardenas hold up as examples seem both cluttered and shallow — a vote-stuffing contest for “news of the weird.”

I’m old school that way. What drives traffic are the editorial and authorial inputs that Cardenas overlooks in his list of the obvious. Not headlines, but well-written headlines. Not images, but compelling images. Not backbars, favicons, sparklines, word coloring, and spacings, but good ledes.

The New York Times isn’t making money online. But they aren’t lacking for traffic.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Information Design, Technology, Usability, User Experience, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

March 16, 2010, 10:08 am

Tufte Crosses the Delaware

By Henry Woodbury

Information design guru Edward Tufte has been called to serve on the Recovery Independent Advisory Board, an advisory panel to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. No news yet if the Advisory Board gets a board.

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to track stimulus funding and help prevent fraud, waste, and mismanagement.

Tufte writes:

I’m doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I’ll learn something.

I blogged about problems with data presentation at USASpending.gov, one of the Recovery Board’s web sites back in September. The data handling problems identified then by Seth Grimes appear to be fixed, but the 3D pie chart is still in use. Hopefully its days are numbered.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Current Events

March 1, 2010, 12:16 pm

Movies in Six Panels

By Lisa Agustin

Movie site Little White Lies has announced the winner of its latest competition, in which readers were asked to condense a favorite film into a six-frame comic strip. The winning entry by David Rigby–a highly-detailed Zombieland (pictured above)–along with other notable submissions (Total Recall, American Psycho, and Adaptation among them) are now available on the Creative Review site.  While it’s fun to compare each result to your own recollection of a particular movie, it’s also interesting to think about what each artist decided to include and, perhaps more important, what to leave out–a key step not only in creating comics, but also diagrams and PowerPoint decks.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Comics