Information Design Watch

June 22, 2011, 9:29 pm

Crayola Century

By Henry Woodbury

From artist and scientist Stephen Van Morley:

Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010

Quote:

The number of colors doubles every 28 years!

This is just the setup. For the real fun, see where Morley went next:

Crayola Color Chart Tests

(via Chris Wild’s fabulous How To Be A Retronaut)

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Art, Charts and Graphs, Color, Diagrams, Visual Explanation

June 18, 2011, 10:00 pm

Follow the Dots, not the Lines

By Henry Woodbury

Over at ESPN’s Grantland, my new favorite sports site, a visual explanation has made an appearance.

The HBO Recycling Program, Detail: The WireThe HBO Recycling Program, Detail: ActorsAndy Greenwald, writing about HBO’s reuse of character actors in different original series, posted a diagram of “The 66 Busiest Actors on HBO”.  The diagram links actors to each series in which they have made three or more appearances. On the left you might find Roxanne Hart. On the right you might find The Sopranos.

This is a chart of a type. It shows a network, but the assemblage of lines that denotes the network is indecipherable. It’s pickup sticks. (Other network diagrams devolve to spaghetti.)

Partly this is an artifact of organization. The alphabetical list of actors has no meaningful correspondence to the alphabetical list of shows. Imagine if shows were listed chronologically and actors listed in order of first appearance. Then you might see a pattern. Would it be enlightening? I’m not sure. A common problem with network diagrams is that the lines don’t aggregate into meaning. An individual line might tell you something, but only in its connection to a pair of nodes. And if you want to focus on individual nodes — an actor or a show — you don’t need a diagram.

Here, the big picture is not in the lines, but the dots. Scan either list and the diagram quickly informs you of something interesting: Stephen Toblowsky appears in a lot of HBO shows. The Wire employed a lot of actors. But not Stephen Toblowsky (no line).

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Diagrams, Information Design, Visual Explanation

June 9, 2011, 2:23 pm

Off the (Google) Grid

By Henry Woodbury

In IEEE Spectrum’s Special Report on the Social Web, Joshua J. Romero attempts to decouple himself — from Google. In his article “How I Learned to Live Google-free” he writes about retrieving his cloud data and picking alternative services, issues that touch on data handling, user experience, technology, and unintended consequences. His comment about single sign-on, for example, really resonated with me:

It’s easy to get seduced by the lure of a single sign-on. But managing multiple user accounts actually isn’t as much of an annoyance as we think it is. For me, it quickly became clear that my single Google account had mixed and muddled my personal and professional services and data.

Link through to take the survey about which Google services you use (with some notable omissions), and learn about the various alternatives Romero discovered.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Social Media, Technology, User Experience

June 2, 2011, 7:01 pm

Corn and More Corn

By Henry Woodbury

On the day that the USDA unveiled a nonsensical replacement for its hopelessly-compromised food pyramid, it’s important to understand what kinds of foodstuffs the government actually promotes.

Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International has produced this image of what the White House garden would look like “if it were planted to reflect the relative costs of the main crops subsidized by US taxpayers”:

Kitchen Gardeners International White House Garden Comparison

The data is from the Farm Subsidy Database.

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