Information Design Watch

March 7, 2012, 3:42 pm

The Scientists Sketch

By Henry Woodbury

Data visualization consultant Lee De Cola has assembled a neat cross section of sketches by famous scientists. Here, for example, is a literal back-of-the-envelope sketch by Henri Poincaré:

Henri Poincaré's back-of-the-envelope calculations

Sadly, many of the images are small, or culled of context. Consider them a teaser. Galileo’s sketch of Saturn is a minor doodle compared to the visual storytelling found in this page from his notebook on Jupiter:

Moons of Jupiter, from Galileo's Notebook

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Art, Charts and Graphs, Diagrams, Illustration, Information Design, Maps, Scholarly Publishing, Visual Explanation

February 7, 2012, 10:11 am

The Tube as Watershed

By Henry Woodbury

Cartographer Daniel Huffman has taken Harry Beck’s map of the London Underground and applied it to river systems. The results are beautiful and illuminating:

Mississippi River Watershed

Huffman explains:

I wanted to create a series of maps that gives people a new way to look at rivers: a much more modern, urban type of portrayal. So I turned to the style of urban transit maps pioneered by Harry Beck in the 1930s for the London Underground. Straight lines, 45º angles, simple geometry. The result is more of an abstract network representation than you would find on most maps, but it’s also a lot more fun. The geography is intentionally distorted to clarify relationships. I think it helps translate the sort of visual language of nature into a more engineered one, putting the organic in more constructed terms. Not every line depicted is navigable, but all are important to the hydrological systems shown.

Part of a continuing series:

(Via Greg Pliska, LearnedLeague.)

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Art, Information Design, Maps

December 2, 2011, 5:20 pm

Electrotyping Animation Now Online

By Henry Woodbury

The Electrotyping Animation we created for the Metropolitan Museum of Art has now been posted online. It is currently the featured video on the Met’s MetMedia page.

Here it is on Information Design Watch:

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

November 22, 2011, 3:44 pm

Electrotyping Animation at the Met

By Henry Woodbury

Opening today is a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Victorian Electrotypes: Old Treasures, New Technology. The show presents a selection from the museum’s archive of electrotypes — Victorian-era copies of European decorative artifacts.

One of the main pieces of the show is the Bryant Vase, designed by Tiffany and Company. The vase itself was copied by electrotyping and the exhibit accompanies the original with its copper molds. Using the Bryant Vase as the main character, Dynamic Diagrams created a short animation explaining how the electrotyping process works.

Brant Vase with electrotyping animation in background

Bryant Vase with electrotyping animation in background

The video starts with slow zoom of a photo of the original vase. We then transition to a 3D model which we animate to show the steps in which a mold is created and immersed in a copper-sulfate bath. A “microscopic” view explains how copper ions transmit in the the bath from a positively charged copper bar to the negatively charged mold. Finally, we show how individual pieces are reassembled into a near-identical copy of the original and plated in silver.

By using 3D modeling software we are able to give exhibition visitors a greater understanding of the technology behind the works they are viewing.

Update: The Museum has posted an exhibition page.

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

September 13, 2011, 9:08 am

What’s on the Schedule for Today?

By Henry Woodbury

Hopefully there’s more of what you like to do and less of what you have to do. And hopefully they overlap.

I have to do / I like to do - Jesen Tanadi

Via artist and architect Jesen Tanadi (originally from desprezivel). You can view Tanadi’s projects at his eponymous URL.

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

September 3, 2011, 10:25 pm

Three Takes on the Modern Sensibility

By Henry Woodbury

1. Industrial designer Dieter Ram’s work for Braun is highlighted in a portfolio that purports to describe 10 principles of modern design. It is an honest appraisal. It includes the idiotic geared mixer.

Dieter Rams’s Mixer at Museum of Modern Art San Francisco - The Daily Beast

2. Blogger Ann Althouse reduces the reductive aesthetic:

Oddly, I came away feeling that the 10 principles were all the same, and if that principle was simple functionality, the make that one thing into 10 is a violation of the principle itself. But then Rams wasn’t purporting to dictate the principles of website content, so there really is no paradox.

3. Could you have one principle with ten examples and still get the page-views? Lists are so addictive.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Cognitive Bias, Design, User Experience

August 16, 2011, 9:31 am

Making Infinity Personal

By Henry Woodbury

How does one comprehend very large numbers? This is a question for artists and thinkers that we’ve touched on before.

Conceptual artist Roman Opalka made this challenge personal, making his life’s work the painting of integers in sequence:

Starting at the top left of a canvas measuring a little over four by six feet, and using acrylic paint, he used a fine brush (No. 0) to inscribe 20,000 to 30,000 white numerals on a black background in neat rows that ended at the bottom right corner. Each succeeding canvas, or “detail” as he called it, picked up where the previous one left off. As of July 2004, he had reached 5.5 million….

All the paintings in the series bore the same title, “Opalka 1965/1 — ?.” “All my work is a single thing, the description from one to infinity,” Mr. Opalka once wrote. “A single thing, a single life.”

Starting in 1972, Opalka began taking self-portraits, also in sequence. These have been published in the stunningly crafted book shown in this video:

This is the kind of photography an artist now would turn into a digital animation.

You can see the physical experience that would be lost.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Books and Articles, Creativity, Information Design, Photography

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

March 9, 2011, 11:44 am

The Great Upheaval: Modern Art from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918

By Lisa Agustin

The Guggenheim Museum recently launched an interactive timeline to accompany its new exhibition, The Great Upheaval: Modern Art from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918. This colorful interactive map and timeline highlights the era’s artists, artist groups, exhibitions, performing arts, publications, artworks, historic events, and cultural movements.  Select one of these categories, then scroll across to choose a particular year.  Corresponding dots appear on the map above, and clicking on a dot displays a lightbox overlay with more information (see detail above).  Overall, the timeline works from linear, drill-down perspective: choose a cultural activity, year, and sample activity within that year.  Navigating the “Selected Artworks” category gives users the most detail (as expected), with an image of the artwork, and links to the artist’s biography and to an essay about the artwork, both housed in the pre-existing online collection on guggenheim.org– a nice way to leverage and highlight what’s already available.  Discovering these individual nuggets is a little like going on a treasure hunt.  The user seeks and finds individual gems scattered throughout.

At the same time, though, this interactive is weak in terms of  providing an integrated picture of the era overall.  Part of what makes studying an artistic era so exciting is the chance to discover connections: between artistic disciplines, or between the arts and historic events.  The timeline misses this opportunity by forcing users to choose only a single category (the checkbox-like bullet next to each category is misleading).  Additionally, once you’ve selected a dot on the map, dots of other colors at the bottom of the lightbox (see above) are indictors of simultaneous activities, but these are only visual cues and not links.  Investigating these further means selecting a different category for that year and clicking through individual dots to eventually make the connection yourself.  Allowing for multiple category selection and including crosslinks to other categories at the lightbox level are straightforward ways to make the pieces of the timeline more tightly integrated, showing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Great Upheaval is on display through June 1, 2011.

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

January 21, 2011, 2:14 pm

The Power of Concept

By Henry Woodbury

In its Digital Gallery, The State Records Authority of New South Wales offers an exhibition on the design of the Sydney Opera House. The exhibition is really just the online presentation of two documents, the competition drawings by Jørn Utzon and The Red Book, by the same:

This 1958 report (known also as the Red Book) was presented by Jørn Utzon to the Premier and the Opera House Committee in order to “give … a project which realizes in practical form the vision of the competition”. The report comprises: plans, sections, elevations, photographs of models of the Opera House; and reports by other consultants.

The technical plans are intersticed with Utzon’s free-form drawings and conceptual studies, creating, as a whole, an extraordinary essay in realized imagination.

Sidney Opera House sketch by Jørn Utzon

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Art, Books and Articles, Illustration, Visual Explanation

December 5, 2010, 10:18 am

Hello Skullhead

By Henry Woodbury

Cross Blackbeard with Black Sabbath and you might end up with something like Patrick Galbraith’s Map of Metal:

Map of Metal, Key

The map has a method, indicated by the legend above, and a timeline. The latter runs in a diagonal, from the northwest 60s to the southeast 00s.

Aurally, the map offers definitional tracks for each genre. Visually, its delight comes from Galbraith’s emblematic variations on the leather default. Below is his riff on Visual Kei, “a movement among Japanese musicians, that is characterized by the use of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes….”

Map of Metal, Visual Kei

Hello Kitty.

(via LearnedLeague)

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

November 30, 2010, 10:01 am

The Very Small, in Added Color

By Henry Woodbury

The scanning electronic microscope (SEM) does not produce images in color. What it does produce are images of almost crystalline focus. In this gallery of pollen grains by scientist Martin Oeggerli the detail is original; the color is added:

The clarity of the image derives from the technology, wherein ”the electron beam is shifted little by little over a rectangular area. Thereby, the area is literally ‘scanned’ from one pixel to the next.” Analysis of secondary electron emissions allows scientists to map the specimen’s surface:

Unlike pictures captured with a camera, SEM scans are based on particle emission rather than light – they don’t show colors and brightness depends from the characteristics of the sample surface: while dark areas mark low secondary electron emission, bright areas are the result of high secondary electron emission. Thus, an SEM scan could be seen as a topographic image with very close resemblance to a black-and-white photograph.

Oeggerli adds the color later. Here, he explains his technique:

Most importantly, you need to understand how nature works to create authentic effects. My images need a color-costume, which combines natural perfection with imperfection, to mimic the often very subtle individual variations provided by the raw material for natural selection.

But nature doesn’t exactly work the way Oeggerli records. His “nature”, like that of Dutch pronkstilleven or Pixar movies, is brighter and more chromatic than reality.

The images are really precise — but not really real.

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

October 28, 2010, 9:31 am

Digital Camera Obscura

By Henry Woodbury

You walk into a dark room. As your eyes adjust, you realize that an image of the outside world appears on one wall; it is upside down, but in true color and perspective. The lens is a small hole in the opposite wall. The entire room functions as a pinhole camera that contains you as well.

Using the camera obscura artist Abelardo Morell projects images onto found surfaces then photographs them using a very long exposure. Here is the Brooklyn Bridge, taken from a Manhattan rooftop.

Morell created the shot by setting up a heavy dome-like tent on the top of the building with a periscope poking out of the top. The image projects down to the rooftop surface.

“It involves a huge amount of work to create something my daughter could make in Photoshop in two seconds,” Morell says. Morell is showing work this month at New York City galleries Bryce Wolkowitz and Bonni Benrubi.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Creativity, Current Events

October 24, 2010, 3:00 pm

Visualizing Scale at the Tate Modern

By Tim Roy

One of the most common requirements for our visualization work is to “show all the data at once”, a request made by clients who want to make certain that the audience is able to see the “whole” as well as the individual elements of which it is comprised.  We often explain the challenges associated with this: the inability to provide detail or context, the potential for disorientation, and the challenges associated with a large number of data points.  We have been fortunate enough to develop techniques for solving this business challenge and have been able to produce visualizations successfully presenting tremendous amounts of complex data.

It was for this reason I was drawn to a new exhibit at the Tate Modern in London: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds 2010.  This installation takes the idea of representing a large number of objects to new extremes.  The piece, on display at the Tate from 12 October 2010 to 2 May 2011, showcases 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds.

100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds on display at the Tate Modern

Juliet Bingham, Curator at the Tate Modern commented:

“Ai Weiwei’s Unilever Series commission, Sunflower Seeds, is a beautiful, poignant and thought-provoking sculpture. The thinking behind the work lies in far more than just the idea of walking on it. The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative and personal content create a powerful commentary on the human condition. Sunflower Seeds is a vast sculpture that visitors can contemplate at close range on Level 1 or look upon from the Turbine Hall bridge above. Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?”

While not a typical visualization (but then again, what is?), I was fascinated by the contrast between the scale of the overall work and the intricacy of the individual pieces.  More than 1600 artisans from the Chinese city of Jingdezhen, worked to produce this collection under the supervision of Ai Weiwei.  The results, while physically beautiful, also invite a far deeper intellectual inquiry about the idea of scale and presentation.  The accompanying video, despite its 14 minute length, is a fascinating study in the process and context for this project.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Art, Visual Explanation

October 6, 2010, 4:44 pm

Place as Idea

By Tim Roy

For New England readers of Information Design Watch, the Worcester Art Museum has a new exhibit opening on October 9, 2010: Place as Idea.

David Maisel, Terminal Mirage #215-9-4, 2003, Chromogenic print, Gift of Edward Osowski in honor of the photographer and the Eliza S. Paine Fund, 2005.102

Its focus will be on the role place plays in visualizing abstract concepts such as time and memory and will feature works by a series of contemporary artists employing a variety of mediums.  Of particular interest is a collection of pieces in which the traditional bounds of photography are challenged as the canonical record of architectural experience.

I plan to visit the exhibit in the coming weeks and will post images and reactions.  It will be on display through February 13, 2011.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Current Events, Language, User Experience

October 4, 2010, 7:31 pm

Creating Experiences with Sir John Soane

By Tim Roy

Dynamic Diagrams has been privileged to collaborate with some of the finest museums in the world including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  While our work has ranged from designing the overall information architecture of a museum’s web presence, to multi-media personal histories, to complex interactive kiosks involving 3D models, it is connected by the unifying thread of our focus on user experience.  By considering how a visitor will experience an interaction – be it a web site, kiosk, or video – we can help our clients facilitate the most challenging of communication goals: understanding.

There is little doubt that the “big” museums – the Gettys, the Tates, and the MOMAs – garner a great deal of public attention for their collections and the experiences they create.  Yet, there is something special about the “small” museums and what they can teach us.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is one such example.  Located in London, it was established in 1806 by the architect Sir John Soane in the interest of providing design and artistic resources for his architectural students.  By 1833, the collection had been made public under an act of Parliament  and upon Soane’s death, in 1837, was placed under the auspices of a board of trustees and a curator, with the sole intent of making the house and its holdings broadly accessible.

Housing almost 35,000 unique items ranging from Egyptian antiquities to medieval objects to  architectural models, Soane assembled his own secret world designed to inspire “Amateurs and Students of the Arts.”  In his attention to the smallest and most subtle detail, Soane created meaning for those who cared enough to carefully observe and engage.  Stories could be found in a letter’s postmark or in the placement of a single carved button.  In many ways, this is an early gesture towards producing an experience for a collections’ users informed by a shared language and common goals.

The newly-redesigned Sir John Soane Museum website.

The museum’s web site was recently redesigned and provides an interesting overview of the collection and some of its hidden details.  Still, there is no replacement for actually experiencing the museum in person, even if one must patiently queue for admission.  The wait is absolutely worth it.

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Comments (3) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Information Architecture, User Experience

August 25, 2010, 9:32 am

Egg Cracking Technique

By Henry Woodbury

A friend linked me to the delightful They Draw and Cook web site (thanks Katy!). Here you have simple recipes rendered by artists and illustrators. Many are no more than decorated recipe cards, but some clamber over the illustration fence into visual explanation territory. An example is Alex Savakis’s egg cracking technique:

Gust's Scrambled Eggs by Alex Savakis

In this one, the text is superfluous.

Others are just fun.

Rootin' Tootin' Beans by Pierre A. Lamielle

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

July 28, 2010, 9:01 am

No Explanation Needed

By Henry Woodbury

Charlatan, Martyr, Hustler by Joey Roth

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

June 4, 2010, 10:21 am

Visual Explanation, 17th Century Version

By Henry Woodbury

Flora's mallewagen, Allegory of the Tulip Mania, by Hendrik Gerritsz Pot

Flora’s mallewagen, Allegory of the Tulip Mania, by Hendrik Gerritsz Pot:

The goddess of flowers is riding along with three drinking and money weighing men and two women on a car. Weavers from Haarlem have thrown away their equipment and are following the car. The destiny of the car is shown in the background: it will disappear in the sea.

(via Walter Russell Mead)

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

May 25, 2010, 11:38 am

Saint Ginés Wins MUSE Award

By Henry Woodbury

Dynamic Diagrams and the J. Paul Getty Museum have won a  2010 Silver MUSE award for the Getty-produced video Making a Spanish Polychrome Sculpture. Dynamic Diagrams created the 3D animation that opens the video and shows how the XVII century sculpture was assembled. The Getty integrated this animation with live action footage that shows carving and surface treatment techniques. The effectiveness of this combination was noted by many of the judges:

This is a fine example of technology effectively used to clearly demonstrate an intricate artistic process. It’s the combination of the digital imagery with the live footage of an artist that makes this video exciting and fascinating for all kinds of audiences

The MUSE awards are presented annually by the American Association of Museums’ Media and Technology committee. They recognize “institutions or independent producers which use digital media to enhance the museum experience and engage new audiences.” We are proud to work with The Getty on projects of such scope and distinction.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Current Events, Dynamic Diagrams News, Technology, Visual Explanation

May 19, 2010, 12:52 pm

Explore the Display Cabinet

By Henry Woodbury

Augsburg Display Cabinet at The Getty MuseumOne of the masterworks in The Getty Museum’s newly opened European sculpture and decorative arts galleries is the Augsburg Display Cabinet, a lavishly decorated 17th century cabinet that once would have stored a collector’s curios and precious objects.

The cabinet features many panels and doors beyond those opened for display. To give visitors a look inside the cabinet and help them understand the details of its decoration and construction, The Getty asked Dynamic Diagrams to create an interactive 3D model of the artifact.

Working closely with Getty curators and media professionals, we used a comprehensive set of photographs to build the model and apply surface details. We then coded our application to import text and zoomable images from an external source, allowing Getty staff full control over the descriptions and detail views that accompany the model.  

Our application is presented in the gallery on a touchscreen display, as seen at right in this photo from the Daily News of Los Angeles.

The Getty has also placed the application on its web site allowing you to explore the wonders of the Augsburg Cabinet on your own computer.

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

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

December 10, 2009, 12:47 pm

Tim Burton: “Drawing Helps My Mental Process”

By Lisa Agustin

tim-burton-untitled-sketch-1997

While director Tim Burton is perhaps best known for fantastical movies like Edward Scissorhands and his upcoming version of Alice in Wonderland, his creative output is actually quite broad, and includes paintings, photography, sculpture, and writing.  Burton’s body of work is the focus of a new exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art.  Sketchbooks and drawings figure prominently in the show, and represent not a final product as much as a way to explore and share ideas.  Says Burton:

[Drawing] has always been an important part of my life….I haven’t really shown any of this stuff.  I never considered it art or artwork, mainly because it was not meant to be seen, really.  It was all sort of the process I was doing when I was thinking of ideas or helping my own mental process.  All these kinds of things, whether photographs, or little writings, or sketches, for me, are THE most important part of any project.  I mean, because once I’m doing it, like when I have to communicate with people, it’s not easy for me.  So the important work has to be done in these little private projects.

The exhibition runs through April 26, 2010.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Current Events

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, 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, 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

October 23, 2009, 3:45 pm

The Mummy Animation Joins the Mummy

By Henry Woodbury

At the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Getty Villa Malibu, our 3D animation of the of Mummy of Herakleides is now installed in the gallery:

Mummy of Herakleides Exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Getty Villa Malibu

It’s a perfect day for a trip to Malibu.

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

October 16, 2009, 10:10 am

Infographics for Web Workers

By Lisa Agustin

xkcd-map-of-online-communities

Web Design Ledger offers a collection of infographics of special interest to web workers, including process flows, data driven visualizations, and musings (like xkcd.com’s Map of Online Communities, above).  Enjoy.

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

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 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 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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May 19, 2009, 11:16 am

Twitter as Public Art

By Lisa Agustin

vistweet1vistweet2

Check out “Visible Tweets”, a visualization of Twitter intended for public spaces or, as creator Cameron Adams puts it, “a Twitter visualizer for rock concerts.” Simply enter whose tweets you’d like to see, and choose one of three animation styles to see the tweets letter by letter, rotating as they are linked to each other, or as a tag cloud that morphs from one tweet into the next. Adams’ allusion to rock concerts stems from his assertion that Twitter is normally about the chatter that takes a back seat to the main event (but doesn’t have to):

Twitter gives a voice to an audience who for many years have played a subservient role to those who were officially there to speak. But who says they have less to say?

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Information Design, Social Media, Technology

May 18, 2009, 12:21 pm

This is Not a Painting

By Henry Woodbury

The Persistance of Memory

Take a look at the Art of Science 2009 Gallery for some stunning images generated by researchers in a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

The image above is an unusual example in that it starts with an artistic representation. Researchers loaded a bitmap of the Mona Lisa into the memory of a test computer, then examined it after power interruptions of increasing lengths.

The title “The Persistence of Memory” is both literally descriptive of the experiment and a clever reference to Salvator Dali’s most famous painting.

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

February 18, 2009, 8:53 pm

3D Modeling Reveals Construction of Saint Ginés

By Henry Woodbury

In conjunction with a current exhibition of Luisa Roldana’s Saint Ginés de La Jara, the J. Paul Getty Museum created a video of the techniques used to create the medieval polychrome statue.

Dynamic Diagrams work is featured in the first section of the video, in which 3D modeling software is used to recreate the assembly of the XVII century wooden sculpture.

Still for Saint Gines Video

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

February 3, 2009, 9:28 am

Lego Minimalism

By Henry Woodbury

Christoph Niemann has another abstract city column up.

Tuna Sushi / Polish Flag / Wasabi

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

January 21, 2009, 11:31 am

Examples, Symbols, and Signposts

By Henry Woodbury

Comics impresario Scott McCloud takes on the TED conference and delivers an engaging and funny talk titled “Understanding comics.” The title doesn’t do McCloud justice. He’s really talking about vision. And it’s a great presentation.

One reason for that is McCloud’s playfulness. Even as he unpacks his thesis, he tells stories, plugs in cross-references, and puns on his own ideas. When he gets to talking about comics he uses simple, but effective animations and symbols to highlight concepts such as directionality, space, and time.

Ah, but maybe this is too easy. He’s a comic artist, talking about comics, and his examples are comics.

Not true. When McCloud is talking about ideas, he is equally creative. Except for one key sequence, there are almost no words on his slides. Instead, McCloud offers visual references — a picture of Jung when talking about Jung, a sequence of Ray Charles, Albert Einstein, Wernher Von Braun, and Thomas Edison as he describes his father: ”a blind genius rocket scientist inventor.” He also uses simple, but effective symbols such as an eye to symbolize science, “where what we see and can ascertain are the foundation for what we know.”

(hat tip to Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen)

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

January 9, 2009, 4:13 pm

A Pattern That Always Fits But Never Repeats

By Lisa Agustin

nyttokolo12

Computer-scientist-turned-designer Asao Tokolo has developed Tokolo Pattern Magnets, which allow you to interlock the tiles to create a non-repeating pattern that still manages to match the edges of a single tile to its adjoining one.   The magnets’ pattern is based on the karakusa, or the Japanese version of the arabesque, which made its way to Japan twelve hundred years ago via the Spice Route. According to the New York Times:

Scholarly papers have been dedicated to the ingenious ways these patterns can be generated and made to interlock and repeat — the fractal geometries of form. What interested Tokolo, though, was the way each tile could have a completely unique shape, and yet be made to link harmoniously to all the others — an unexpected harmony, perhaps, between Western individualism and Eastern collectivism.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Art, Creativity, Design

December 29, 2008, 3:20 pm

The Year in Pictures

By Henry Woodbury

Almost every newspaper web site has a mesmerizing show.

The New York Times arranges their collection by category. I prefer the chronological order — and startling juxtapositions — of The Boston Globe’s collection (part 2, part 3).

Sports, politics, war, and disaster predominate, but some of my favorite pictures are those of science and nature, such as this photo from The Boston Globe:

The Chinese Shenzhou-7 manned spaceship

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Current Events, Photography, Sports

December 17, 2008, 11:03 am

Rivermap Visualization by Kerr | Noble

By Lisa Agustin

Rivermap

The recently announced breakup of design studio Kerr | Noble prompted me to revisit some of their work, including “Rivermap” from 1999, in which the meandering contours of the River Thames are depicted using the John Banck’s poem from 1783, “A Description of London.”  The map uses the Caslon font, which was designed at the same time that the poem was written.  Lovely.

See the London Design Museum’s site for an interview with the duo, including samples of their work.

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

December 3, 2008, 9:45 am

I Heart Coffee

By Henry Woodbury

I heart coffee

Christoph Niemann brews up a brilliant illustrated essay on one man’s history with coffee. Don’t miss the chart on coffee-bias-over-time about halfway through (oh sure, it could be improved, Tuftelike, but that’s not the point).

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Art, Charts and Graphs, Illustration, Visual Explanation

December 1, 2008, 9:44 am

The Blogofractal

By Henry Woodbury

The Blogofractal

The text version is good too.

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

October 22, 2008, 2:47 pm

Manga Sommelier

By Henry Woodbury

Comics are everywhere. From The New York Times Food and Wine section comes this story of a serendipitous intersection of comic talent and love of wine. Four years ago Yubo and Shin Kibayashi created their series “The Drops of the Gods” centered on a young hero named Shizuku Kanzaki:

At the start of the series, Shizuku has rebelled against his father, a famous wine critic, by refusing to drink wine and working instead for a brewery. Suddenly, though, his father dies and leaves in his will a description of 12 wines he considers the world’s best, comparing them to the disciples of Jesus.

Pitted against his adopted brother, who happens to be a sommelier, Shizuku must catch up in his knowledge so he can find the 12 wines mentioned in his father’s will and inherit his father’s vast cellar.

Now the comic has spread beyond Japan to other East Asian countries slowly opening up to alcohol imports:

At Addiction Plus, a trendy Italian restaurant in central Seoul, men in their late 20s to early 40s often ask about wines featured in the comic, said the owner, Kim Chin-ui, 38.

“They won’t mention that they’ve read the comic, though it’s pretty obvious,” Mr. Kim said. “They try to insert terms like ‘terroir’ or ‘marriage’ to show off — normally, to their colleagues or dates.”

“But I don’t think the women are impressed,” Mr. Kim added. “I can tell from their faces. I mean, the women know where the terms are coming from, because they’ve read the same comic.”

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

October 8, 2008, 12:44 pm

Political Word Clouds in Color

By Henry Woodbury

Using the Wordle platform, blogger Ann Althouse created a pair of word clouds from last night’s Barack Obama – John McCain U.S. presidential debate.

McCain’s cloud:

McCain word cloud

Obama’s cloud:

Obama word cloud

Althouse makes a profound point:

The most interesting words — like “Jell-O” and “corpse” — were only said once and stay off of their clouds. I’d like a program that makes a graphic of all the words that only appear once. They’re especially… important.

From a design perspective, what’s important is that word color, font, and placement don’t mean anything. Wordle allows you to choose your own colors and fonts for your word cloud and provides a gallery of placement options (horizontal, vertical, half and half, etc.). You can randomize all settings or reposition the words using current settings until you like the way they look.

Althouse is a law professor, but she has an art background and often blogs on art, photography, and the media. She clearly went for an aesthetic result in these two clouds. The McCain cloud looks like the “blue chill” palette, but I think the Obama cloud uses a custom palette, one designed to be different but complementary. Not that that means anything.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Color, Current Events, Language, Typography

October 7, 2008, 3:09 pm

The Literal Version

By Henry Woodbury

What the storyboards say:

What you actually meant.

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

August 28, 2008, 11:28 am

Groovin’ with Some Energy

By Henry Woodbury

Areva Ad FrameHere’s an ad that actually caused me to click.

Areva, “the no. 1 nuclear energy products and services vendor in America,” has constructed a new print and Internet ad campaign around the birds-eye isometric view of its world. The Web animation shows energy production and use from mining to power generation to the disco.

It reminded me of the Royskopp video we linked here, but with a somewhat different rationale. Both animations were done by the French firm H5 (look under FILMS > CLIPS for Royskopp; under FILMS > PUBLICITE for Areva).

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Comments (1) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Branding, Business, Illustration, Infographics, Information Design, Marketing, Visual Explanation

August 28, 2008, 10:57 am

Infoviz Art on Slate

By Lisa Agustin

Slate offers its take on “infoviz art” via this slide show of visualizations. It includes the usual candidates, like Martin Wattenberg’s famous Name Voyager, as well as lesser-known works like Golan Levin’s The Dumpster, a visualization of blog-documented teenage breakups from 2005, which was co-commissioned by The Whitney Museum’s ArtPort and Tate Online.

The Dumpster

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

July 2, 2008, 11:17 am

The Fun of Getting There

By Henry Woodbury

Illustrator Christoph Niemann offers a wonderful tale of small boys and the New York City subway system. Yes, it’s another post about transit systems. How can I resist?

It seems people don�t trust the advice of a preschooler. They should

I myself have taken my motion-obsessed son on several circular ferry boat trips, including the Staten Island Ferry and the Québec-Lévis Ferry (approximate crossing time: 10 minutes).

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Design, Illustration

June 26, 2008, 11:52 am

Running the Numbers: A Portrait of America

By Lisa Agustin

Van Gogh Skull and Cigarettes Cigarette Boxes

To photographer Chris Jordan, today’s American culture is the product of daily and often unconscious decisions made by individual citizens. Further, these decisions can add up, to the detriment of the environment or the population (“One million plastic cups are used on airline flights in the US every six hours.”)

While such statistics are important, these large numbers are also abstract, harder to comprehend, and therefore easier to dismiss. Jordan’s exhibition, Running the Numbers, addresses this by visualizing such data in a way that makes these numbers tangible and accessible. Each large-format photograph is the result of assembling many small images (or individual choices, if you prefer). For example, the image “Skull With Cigarette, 2007″ (based on a painting by Van Gogh) is an assemblage of 200,000 packs of cigarettes, or the equivalent of Americans who die from smoking every six months.

From the artist’s statement:

My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month…Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

Jordan’s approach to visualizing statistics addresses a common challenge in visualizing complex data. Statistics themselves will do little to convince or persuade an audience and can even have the opposite effect. (When was the last time you were inspired by a pie chart?) But presenting data in the context of a visual analogy or story makes the numbers easier to grasp, more memorable, and more likely to motivate.

For more on Chris Jordan, see: http://www.chrisjordan.com/

For his related talk at this year’s TED conference, see: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/279

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Comments (2) | Filed under: Art, Visual Explanation

June 26, 2008, 10:59 am

New York City Waterfalls

By Henry Woodbury

Artist Olafur Eliason’s public art project, New York City Waterfalls, officially opens today.

Waterfall and Brooklyn Bridge

There’s a lengthy write-up on The New York Times City Room blog, while the project’s elegant Flash-based web site provides background information, photos, directions, and this visual explanation (click on “About The Waterfalls” then “How The Waterfalls Work”):

How the Waterfall Works

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

May 5, 2008, 2:05 pm

Harvard Business Review Discovers “Emerging Science of Visualization”

By Mac McBurney

Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas, the two best-known creators of IBM Research’s Many Eyes, brief business execs on the benefits of collaborative information visualization.

Our research has found that the compelling presentation of data through visualization’s advanced techniques generates a surprising volume of impassioned conversations. Viewers ask questions, make comments, and suggest theories for why there’s a downward trend here or a data cluster there. That level of engagement could foster the kind of grassroots innovation CEOs dream of.

The article is available in the May 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review and for free online (at least for now):

You’ll also find Viégas and Wattenberg in MoMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition.

Finally, for even more info-vis star-watching, Viégas and two other designers will join John Maeda (an info design rockstar if ever there was one) later this month for IN/VISIBLE: Graphic Data Revealed. From the event’s blurb:

The visual ethics required in information graphics increase the designer’s burden from faithful executor to editorial arbiter. How do design choices affect the integrity of the data being portrayed?

If you see me there, say hello: http://www.aigany.org/events/details/08FD/

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Books and Articles, Business, Current Events, Design, Information Design, Scholarly Publishing, Visual Explanation

May 2, 2008, 10:02 am

A New (Old) Subway Map

By Henry Woodbury

The New York Times City Room blog reports that Men’s Vogue will publish an updated version of Massimo Vignelli’s iconic 1972 subway map:

With its 45- and 90-degree angles and one color per subway line, the 1972 subway map by Massimo Vignelli was divorced from the cityscape, devoid of street or neighborhood names. It was criticized because its water was not blue and its parks were not green. Paul Goldberger called it “a stunningly handsome abstraction” that “bears little relation to the city itself.”

New:

New York City Subway Map by Massimo Vignelli, Revised

Old:

New York City Subway Map by Massimo Vignelli, Original

Part of a continuing series:

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Art, Current Events, Design, Maps, Visual Explanation

April 1, 2008, 10:07 am

Little People About London

By Henry Woodbury

Manhole Swimming

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art

March 11, 2008, 9:58 pm

MOMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind

By Lisa Agustin

universcaleAt NY’s Museum of Modern Art, the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition “focuses on designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and social mores, changes that will demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior, and convert them into objects and systems that people understand and use.” The online exhibition features 300 examples of design innovation in several categories, among them Thinkering (“productive tinkering”), Super Nature (technologies based on biological systems), and Extreme Visualization, which includes universcale, a Flash site describing the size of objects in the universe using an “infinite yardstick” extending from a femtometer to a light-year.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art, Creativity, Current Events, Design, User Experience

February 5, 2008, 11:34 am

Periodic Table of the Imagination

By Henry Woodbury

We’ve seen some unfortunate attempts to use the Periodic Table of the Elements as an organizational metaphor. Here’s a more successful idea — the Periodic Table as communal art project:

2007 Periodic Table Printmaking Project

Organized by printmaker Jennifer Schmitt, the 2007 Periodic Table Printmaking Project brings together “Ninety-six printmakers of all experience levels, have joined together to produce 118 prints in any medium; woodcut, linocut, monotype, etching, lithograph, silkscreen, or any combination.”

Many of the artists are users of the handmade craft commerce site Etsy which features a short article about the project in the current issue of its online magazine: This Handmade Life.

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April 24, 2007, 11:00 am

The Art of Mexican Blackletter

By Lisa Agustin

If you’ve seen a bottle of Corona beer, you’ve already seen a sample of the Mexican Blackletter font.  With origins that can be traced back to the Blackletter or Gothic miniscule from 12th century Europe, this font conveys a sense of history and religious tradition. But while it may bring to mind reverential or scholarly images, its use as a multipurpose typeface for everything from shop signs to tattoos makes it a part of contemporary life in Mexico, says Cristina Paoli in her book Mexican Blackletter. Perhaps most interesting is the idea that Mexican Blackletter does not have a fixed appearance, since most of the time it is drawn by hand, usually by someone who is not experienced in typography. As Paoli noted in a recent interview on NPR’s The World:

Most of the time its drawn by hand. And this really has a tremendous impact on the actual shape of the letter. So it makes the whole letter form and its ornaments much more soft and loose. More times than not it’s made by the inexperienced hand of just ordinary people. The outcome is a typographical creation release from the rules and constraints of typography.

To read/listen to the NPR interview: http://www.theworld.org/?q=taxonomy_by_date/2/20070423

To read an excerpt adapted from the book: http://www.graphics.com/modules.php?name=Sections&op=viewarticle&artid=476

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