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

December 27, 2011, 10:57 am

The Infographic Dump

By Henry Woodbury

I’ve been meaning to write about a spate of bad infographics I’ve been seeing recently in blog posts and social media feeds, but Megan McArdle beat me to it:

If you look at these lovely, lying infographics, you will notice that they tend to have a few things in common:

  1. They are made by random sites without particularly obvious connection to the subject matter. Why is Creditloan.com making an infographic about the hourly workweek?
  2. Those sites, when examined, either have virtually no content at all, or are for things like debt consolidation–industries with low reputation where brand recognition, if it exists at all, is probably mostly negative.
  3. The sources for the data, if they are provided at all, tend to be in very small type at the bottom of the graphic, and instead of easy-to-type names of reports, they provide hard-to-type URLs which basically defeat all but the most determined checkers.
  4. The infographics tend to suggest that SOMETHING TERRIBLE IS HAPPENING IN THE US RIGHT NOW!!! the better to trigger your panic button and get you to spread the bad news BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

The infographics are being used to get unwitting bloggers to drive up their google search rankings. When they get a link from Forbes, or a blogger like Andrew Sullivan–who is like Patient Zero for many of these infographics–Google thinks they must be providing valuable information. Infographics are so good at getting this kind of attention that web marketing people spend a lot of time writing articles about how you can use them to boost your SEO (search engine optimization).

As summarized in point 3 above, McArdle goes into some detail on the misuse of data. But another strange thing about these infographics is that they seem to spring for the same design template. I added this comment to McArdle’s post:

These graphs suffer from more than misappropriated data. They also suffer from low data density and horrible design. The best charts, graphs, and visual explanations inspire insight by providing numbers in context, hopefully in multiple dimensions of data. Derek Thompson’s Graphs of the Year are hardly objective but they at least force some thought in figuring out their flaws.

What we see in many of these charts are isolated numbers accompanied by a cartoonish graphic. The design is boilerplate baroque, apparently created by underemployed battle-of-the-band poster designers. The long vertical is a dead giveaway. I’m starting to see it over and over and I know, almost as soon as I see the aspect ratio, that what I’m seeing is hack work.

Sadly, I think the “success” of this format is generating well-intentioned imitators. Click through for examples. I’m not posting any here.

p.s. My apologies to battle-of-the-band poster designers. There’s nothing wrong with boilerplate baroque in context.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Illustration, Infographics, Marketing, Social Media

December 14, 2011, 9:57 am

Game Theory, Starring the Bowerbird

By Henry Woodbury

For some reason I was reading about game theory over on Wikipedia, and followed a link to this:

The Mathematical Cartoons of Larry Gonick / The Bowerbird's Dilemma, panel 1

The Mathematical Cartoons of Larry Gonick / The Bowerbird's Dilemma, panel 2

This is one of the “Mathematical Cartoons” created by Larry Gonick for Discover magazine. There are 11 at the link. Enjoy!

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Comics, Creativity, Illustration

November 25, 2011, 11:41 pm

Orientation Ratio

By Henry Woodbury

Folks well into Apple mobile development may have already run across Adam Lisagor’s take on the iPad’s aspect ratio.

If not, here it is.

Aspect Ratios of iPad and iPhone

To elaborate a little, the visualization points to more than just dimensions:

But it was clear in the device’s orientation when Steve first pulled it out, and in the orientation of the Apple logo on the back, that the iPad (…) is meant primarily to be used in portrait mode, that its function as a video device is really secondary to its function as a reading device. And 9:16 is now, and will probably always be too damn skinny for a screen.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Illustration, Technology, Visual Explanation

May 23, 2011, 2:02 pm

Small Uniform Multiples

By Henry Woodbury

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Uniform Database offers an elegant showcase of the power of small multiples. Here is a simple example:

Brooklyn Dodgers Uniforms, 1935, 1936, 1937

The database output, by year or team, shows the remarkable variety in baseball uniform design, within the simple confines of cap, jersey, pants, and socks. The outline style shown above was created by Marc Okkonen for his book Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century which concludes in 1994. Post-1994 slightly more naturalistic — and uglier — images are provided by Major League Baseball Properties.

Sadly, where this online exhibit succeeds as information design it fails as information architecture. The search engine is very clumsy. One cannot compare specific teams or specific years. For example, earlier this season the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs played in throwback 1918 uniforms. There is no way to compare Red Sox / Cubs / 1918 / 2011. For larger searches, one cannot show more than three images in a row, or more than eighteen in a page. Please, BBHOF, publish an API.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Illustration, Information Architecture, Information Design, Sports, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

April 16, 2011, 4:30 pm

20 Things + 1

By Henry Woodbury

Cloud Computing by Christoph NiemannThe Google Chrome Team and illustrator Christoph Niemann have teamed up on a tour de force of information delivery: 20 Things I Learned About Browsers & the Web.

This online guide starts with “What is the Internet” and quickly jumps to topics near and dear to Google’s heart, like “How Modern Browsers Protect You from Malware and Phishing.” Yes, it’s self-promotional. But it’s also engagingly written, sprightly illustrated, and brilliantly executed.

Check out the interface. It’s not Flash. It’s HTML 5. That’s the plus one.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Illustration, Information Design, 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 25, 2010, 1:39 pm

A Thanksgiving Visualization

By Tim Roy

For our readers who celebrate Thanksgiving, a visualization of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” seemed the perfect post. Have a great holiday!

and, Part 2 (it’s a long song…):

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

November 18, 2010, 4:00 pm

How 529 Plans Work

By Lisa Agustin

I really like that Mint.com aims to make financial concepts accessible, especially through its use of infographics.  The site’s latest offering focuses on how 529 plans work, something I have a personal interest in as a parent trying to save for two college educations.  The title of the infographic suggests that the viewer will get a step-by-step walkthrough of how these college savings plans work, but after looking it over, I feel this infographic isn’t as strong as it could be.  While all of the relevant pieces were there, these were not organized in a way that would necessarily help my decision-making process.  The infographic includes two kinds of information: background information (e.g., who may be a plan beneficiary) and information that helps me decide which 529 is best for me.  It would be great to see these two types of information better delineated.  For example, the piece would be more effective if  the section “Am I eligible?” were moved to the top of the page, so I could decide whether I should continue to learn about the plans.  From there, I’d like to see the Pre-paid vs. Savings options explained in a way clearly illustrating the pros and cons of each, to help me make a decision.  That said, I felt the best areas of the infographic were ones in which the graphics facilitated comparisons, namely the middle section (Pre-paid vs. Savings options side-by-side), and the chart of “The Best 529 Plans” at the bottom.  (It was also reassuring to see one of the plans I’m considering on the list.)

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

September 21, 2010, 10:34 am

The Simple Power of a Graphic

By Matt DeMeis

Most of us know about the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile. I came across this infographic created by Newsweek about the 3″ diameter bore hole that is keeping them alive.

So simple, but so incredibly powerful. I love this kind of thing. With a line drawing, we are given a true window into the unbelievably claustrophobic situation these men are enduring.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Comics, Creativity, Current Events, Diagrams, Illustration, Infographics, Information Design, Visual Explanation

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

August 16, 2010, 1:46 pm

Hello E. Coli, You’re Looking Large

By Henry Woodbury

E. Coli Bacterium

Start with a coffee bean and zoom down to a carbon atom. That’s a journey in scale from millimeters to picometers.

To experience that journey, try out the interactive Cell Size and Scale application created by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center. It is a tool of elegant simplicity. Move the single slider to the right and sets of increasingly tinier biological objects come into view. At micron scale, you’ll encounter the E. Coli bacterium with its friends lysosome and mitochondria. A gang of viruses make their appearance. And you’re only halfway to the atom.

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

December 15, 2009, 4:00 pm

Masterpiece Comics

By Lisa Agustin

masterpiece-comics-gregor-brown

I am happily perusing an early Christmas present to myself: Masterpiece Comics, a collection of R. Sikoryak’s mash-ups of comic strips and world literature.  Some examples:  Rex Morgan, M.D. + Macbeth = “Macworth.”  Ziggy + Candide = “Candiggy.”  From more recent times, Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead + Waiting for Godot = “Waiting to Go.”   You get the idea.  At first glance, it looks like Sikoryak is simply layering literary plotlines atop uncanny copies of famous cartoons.  But the Masterpiece collection is more than that.  Each classic tale has been carefully matched with a comic that shares its core sensibility, and the clever pairing emphasizes what they have in common, while at the same time creating something new.  In “Good Ol’ Gregor Brown” (above), Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis wakes up as a bug in the Peanuts world of Charles M. Schulz.   Samsa and Charlie Brown are separated by time and place, but the futility and sad humor are the same.  It’s just one of many examples that make you think, “Of course!”  My only disappointment is that this volume is a little on the slim side– only 64 pages– but that’s only because I wish there was more to explore.  Guess I will just have to wait for the next one (“Coming soon! Virgil! Chaucer! Flaubert!”)

See also:

R. Sikoryak’s web site (http://www.rsikoryak.com/index.html)

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Comics, Illustration

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, 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

August 20, 2009, 2:10 pm

Election Day

By Henry Woodbury

Afghan Voting Manual: Your Voice Your Vote

Today is polling day in Afghanistan. One document created to aid the process is Your Vote. Your Voice, a 25-page manual that uses graphic novel techniques to teach “adult learners about  issues, candidates, and appraisal of elected officials’ performance.”

It is printed in Dari and Pashto.

(via Boing Boing)

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

June 29, 2009, 2:08 pm

Sunny Days Over 3D Cities

By Henry Woodbury

The Chinese firm Edushi (“E-city”) has created 3D models of over 40 Chinese cities, including Hong Kong:

Edushi Hong Kong

Google Map-like pan, zoom, and search features make it easy to explore these candy landscapes, until one reaches the edge of the model and the world either fades or flattens — as in the screen capture of Guangzhou below.

edushi-guangzhou

Oddly, the Edushi artists generally point North 45 degrees off vertical (counterclockwise). This means that the 3D maps don’t align with common roadmap or satellite views.

(via PopSci.com)

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Comments (2) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Illustration, Maps, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

March 5, 2009, 1:51 pm

Howe Could They Do This!?

By Matt DeMeis

Today I was looking through the list of winners for ReBrand’s 2009 “100 Global Awards Winning Brands” contest, when a familiar name jumped out at me. Howe Caverns. For those of you (which is probably most) who don’t know about Howe Caverns, here’s a quick summary.

In upstate NY there is a HUGE underground cavern that was discovered by a bunch of cows trying to stay cool on a hot summer day. The cave remains 52°F consistently, year round. This makes it an ideal place for aging cheese, beer, getting married and giving tours for money through its long and winding passageways.

My mom grew up not far from Howe Caverns so I have known about it and its wacky, hand painted billboard advertising ever since I can remember. The billboards I remember most depicted a Huckleberry Finn-type character with what appears to be his little brother on his back, lantern in hand, exploring the cavern. The colors were day-glo on black and the fonts were meant to look super spooky!! POW! I was hooked. I had to go there.

My point is it had a memorable style. Like it or not, it got the job done. You would see one of those billboards a mile away and know it was for Howe Caverns. When I saw that Howe Caverns had re-branded itself I was curious, then disappointed.

New Howe Caverns Branding

They did away with the timeless hand painted illustrative style in favor of the “roughen” filter in Adobe Illustrator. The new branding looks like the packaging for a first-person shooter game, or an earthquake danger warning sign. The style is something we’ve seen a million other places these days. Solid color, distressed font, nice photos — done. I feel like the soul and history of the brand just got flushed away. It may have needed a makeover, but the essence could have been preserved.

I am by all means biased due to my personal childhood memories of the brand but I say bring back Huck Finn and his day-glo little brother!

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Branding, Illustration, Marketing

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

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

October 31, 2008, 10:51 am

Dynamic Diagrams Poster Part of Award-Winning Conference Presentation

By Mac McBurney


Congratulations to Colette Hannan on winning the Young Scientist Award for best poster presentation at the 17th International Conference of Racing Analysts and Veterinarians. Colette won the award for her presentation, “Controlling therapeutic substances – a European harmonised approach: Determination of the detection time for lidocaine following an administration to horses.”

Dynamic Diagrams designed posters for five research studies conducted by BHP Labs in Limerick, Ireland, where Colette works as a chemist. The studies tracked how long drugs like lidocaine and morphine remain — or remain detectable — in race horses. These drugs are legitimate veterinary medications, but they’re a big no-no if your horse tests positive on race day.

The posters present research data and findings to a scientific audience, so we retained the organizing principles of a scientific poster or paper (methods, results, conclusions). In the central graphs, a circular blow-up shows the data of greatest interest. A timeline down the center shows when blood and urine samples were collected from the horses.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Dynamic Diagrams News, Illustration, Information Design, Scholarly Publishing

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 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

September 5, 2008, 8:31 am

Google Chrome Comic Overshadows Product?

By Kirsten Robinson

It seems like everyone’s talking about the Google Chrome announcement — yeah, that’s right, the announcement, maybe more so than Chrome itself! In case your network connection has been down the last couple of days, the announcement is in the form of a comic book illustrated by Scott McCLoud, author of Understanding Comics. Here’s a sample:

Google chrome comic original

And, in the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” department, the spoofers (warning: adult content) weren’t far behind:

Google Chrome comic spoof

Anyway, it’s the first time I’ve read most of a 38-page product announcement in a long time. Although, I would have put the information with broadest appeal first (about the UI) and the developer-focused information last. And a progress indicator (“page 1 of 38″) wouldn’t hurt.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Comics, Current Events, Illustration, Information Design

September 2, 2008, 9:00 am

How-to Comics

By Kirsten Robinson

Ever wondered how to make a pair of stilts or spring-loaded chopsticks? Kim recently discovered a site called Howtoons that illustrates these how-tos and more, in comic form. This is especially interesting to us at Dynamic Diagrams, as we’re currently developing our first comic-inspired web-based training project for one of our clients.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Comics, Illustration

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

July 10, 2008, 9:23 am

“Apparently digitally altered”

By Henry Woodbury

An image that accompanied headlines about Iran’s most recent missile test has been retracted by Agence France-Presse. A fourth missle “[w]as apparently… added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test.”

This raises the question: “Does Iran’s state media use Photoshop?”

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Current Events, Illustration

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

May 20, 2008, 9:34 am

Obesity, Organ by Organ

By Henry Woodbury

Click on a body part and get grossed out.

I must say that much of the effectiveness of this presentation is not in the virtue of the content, but in the visceral impact of the imagery. Organs, guts, that sort of stuff. Add to that the fact that the cutaway child, mouth agape, is illustrated to look ill.

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

April 4, 2008, 12:18 pm

Forget the Parachutes and Cheese: Meet Johnny Bunko

By Lisa Agustin

Many information architects and designers are familiar with Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which explains the mechanics of the medium while shedding light on the principles of visual communications. Now comes Daniel Pink’s new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, a graphic novel that claims to be “The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.” The book follows the protagonist as he learns the six secrets to a satisfying career, courtesy of a sprite named Diana who can be conjured by splitting a pair of magic chopsticks. (I’m not kidding.) The book is written in the Japanese style of comics called Manga. Why? According to Pink:

Because most career books just plain stink. They’re too long, too boring, and too quickly outdated. Today most people get their tactical career information online — how to write a resume, what questions to ask in an interview, who to use as a reference, etc. What they want in a book, or so people tell me, are what they can’t get from Google. They want strategic lessons — and they want it presented in an accessible, to-the-point way.

It’s an interesting approach, newer in the U.S. than in Japan where, Pink claims, 22% of all printed material is in Manga, covering topics as diverse as “how to help you manage your time, learn about Japanese history, or find a mate.” Will the format work? You decide.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Comics, Illustration, Information Design, Visual Explanation

March 10, 2008, 11:40 am

Let the Penguin Explain

By Henry Woodbury

In a few weeks an AOL penguin will begin educating users about advertising cookies. Here’s a sample storyboard from the ad campaign:

Frame 4 of 7: An ad company sends a cookie to Mr. Penguin's computer, recording his visit.

A penguin?

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

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

November 12, 2007, 9:17 am

See for Yourself

By Henry Woodbury

The Laboratory of Dale Purves MD at Duke University has a page of optical illusions and perceptual challenges. Interactive controls allow you to test the “illusion” part of each example while links to the empirical explanations describe why your brain interprets what it sees the way it does.

The website for San Francisco’s Exploratorium Museum of Science has a small gallery of similiar illusions, with shorter explanations.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Cognitive Bias, Color, Design, Illustration

August 4, 2007, 3:14 pm

A Beautiful Orbit

By Henry Woodbury

A foam boomerang with LED lights creates a beautiful visual explanation showing the path and rotation of the device from launch to landing. The picture accompanies a Popular Mechanics article on the sport and science of boomerang throwing.

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

May 23, 2007, 2:09 pm

Worry Indicator

By Henry Woodbury

For all our focus on diagrams, sometimes illustration is the best explanation.

http://www.bearskinrug.co.uk/_articles/2007/05/17/the_worry_constant/

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

August 24, 2006, 12:28 pm

The Sketching Collective

By Lisa Agustin

I’m in the midst of crafting an information architecture (IA) for one of our projects. At our studio, doing this is very much a collaborative process. An information architect or analyst comes up with the approach, then works closely with the design team to render this visually using an IA diagram. There’s a translation phase, accompanied by a creative back-and-forth on how best to present the desired information structure.

The Bachelor sketchOddly, I was reminded of this process by a fun site I came across: SwarmSketch.com. This is an “ongoing online canvas that explores the possibilities of distributed design by the masses.” A visitor may contribute a single, continuous line to a titled sketch-in-progress, then vote on the opacity of the existing lines of others to moderate their input. The darkness of any given line is the average of its previous votes.

It seemed a bit like passing around an Etch-A-Sketch.

Probably the best part about it is not the process of adding to the online design or voting on others’ inputs, but the ability to see the progress of the drawing over time. (Be sure to view the gallery of previous drawings. At right: “The Bachelor.”)

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Creativity, Illustration, Social Media