Tag: Gerd Arntz

09
Jan

ISOTYPE: The Inclusion Factor

TheresWorkForAll_02

From the Humantific Collection here are more early Isotype Institute visualizations. Today in some circles, these might be referred to as “data visualizations” or “infographics”, previously referred to as “statistical graphics”, “picture statistics”, “pictorial statistics”, “information design” and or “information visualizations”.  :-) No shortage of terms now in play. If we want to use such terms these might be thought of as societal context infographics made with a specific, very practical purpose in mind.

Close to our own Humantific work, in terms on social change-making intention, we have deep respect for the work of Isotype [International System of Typographic Picture Education] Institute. Led by Otto Neurath [1882-1945], Isotype was a pioneer in the realm of what we know today to be Social SenseMaking. In the tsunami of data visualizations being generated today it is important to note some fundamental differences.Continue Reading..

11
Nov

ReAppreciating Fritz Kahn

fritzKahnCoverCongratulations to our friends and colleagues Thilo von Debschitz and Uta von Debschitz for the successful redesign and republishing of the new expanded 390 page volume on Fritz Kahn. Bigger and better than the previous 2011 version this large format 2013 monograph will become an inspiring historical volume for many interested in the early days of what might be called metaphorical or analogous information design.

Inside are wonderful early versions of several forms of information design (now often being redepicted as “info-graphics”) including data visualizations and idea or concept visualizations. You don’t have to agree with every idea to appreciate the richness of this amazing work.Continue Reading..

05
Jun

ReAppreciating Richard Saul Wurman

Starving for Understanding?

Required historical background reading for anyone joining Humantific is Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety, published in this first edition in 1989. Years later Richard did a refresh and republished the book as Information Anxiety 2. The later version is easier to find than the original book. Either is recommended if you want to better understand the remarkable time-warp story of how the Understanding Business, the Explaining Business, the SenseMaking Business actually preceded, by decades, the Big Data business.

Of course, all of the technology-related references inside Information Anxiety are now dated, but Richard’s central message remains even more relevant today than when it first appeared. Forget all the Big Data buzz for a moment. It was 20+ years ago that Richard began expressing concern about “the black hole between data and knowledge” and “the widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand”. It is rather amazing to consider Information Anxiety in the timeline of technology history. It was in 1989 that the world-wide-web began appearing in public and Apple introduced its Mac SE/30 and the Mac 11ci, running at 25 MHz with an 80 megabyte hard drive!Continue Reading..

11
Apr

Out of Balance Competition Winners

The international competition: “OUT OF BALANCE – CRITIQUE OF THE PRESENT, Information Design after Otto Neurath” has announced the 2012 winners. Organized by the Berlin based magazine ARCH+ and the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, the competition was sponsored by Humantific, Autodesk, and Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst. The competition judging took place recently in Berlin.

PRESS RELEASE Translated from German: “There were 180 entries submitted to the competition by 499 participants, who organized themselves in teams of varying sizes. About 62 per cent of the participants were students, the rest came from freelance offices or temporary working groups. The high percentage of students can be explained by the fact that the design or architecture faculties of a number of universities have incorporated the competition into their curriculum. The participants from the fields of architecture and environmental planning constitute about 49 per cent, and about 37 per cent hail from the fields of design, the fine arts, film, photography and new media. The remaining 14 per cent come from the social sciences, economics, communication studies, cultural studies, journalism and other professions.

It was not easy to make a selection among the 180 entries submitted. The jury decided to award six first prizes 2000 €, six second prizes 1000€, and five commendations 400 € (see the appendix). The pleasingly high number of competitors from 18 countries demonstrates the broad international interest not only in Information Design but also in the burning questions of today.

The pollution of the environment and the ecological footprint of the affluent societies constituted a larger thematic complex within the framework of the competition, with a special emphasis on possible changes of behavior. The social division of society as a result of increasing disparities of income was picked out as a central theme in many of the entries and examined with regard to the inequality of opportunity and to the effects of poverty on the living conditions. Onemain focal point in this context was the analysis of socio-spatial segregation by examining concrete examples of individual cities. Migration and “migrant labor” were taken up as a phenomenon which becomes more and more important against the backdrop of globalization, and both were documented with regard not only to social exclusion but also to the cultural enrichment of society.

Some entries dealt exclusively with the disastrous living conditions of migrant workers. A further thematic complex accentuated the public tasks and services which constitute the basis of the cohesion of a society: educational institutions, health care, provision of affordable accommodation, etc. Here the main attention was directed to the questions of accessibility and of the effects of privatization.

In the context of the problem of societal cohesion it also came to an analysis of the processes of political education, formation of opinion and participation. The graphic transformation of the contents is as diverse as the subject matters chosen by the competitors.

Following Otto Neurath, many entries developed their own iconography and original graphic forms in order to depict quantitative relations. Aside from these »classic« information diagrams there were also attempts at other, completely new ways of conveyance and of addressing the audience. And, most strikingly, it was not so much the technical potential of electronic media but methodical considerations which played a central role.

In Information Design, aside from the depiction of empirical facts via quantitative details – Neurath’s “language of numbers” –, the directly conveyed statement via qualitative aspects seems to gain in significance. As much as these approaches may differ, they have one thing in common: the recourse to narrative forms in the communication of contents. Or, briefly, a story is told.

Whether graphically or photographically, cinematographically or linguistically, whether with the means of collage or in the form of separate depictions, whether as fiction or as satire, whether with understatement or with hyperbole – all this is more or less of secondary importance against the experimental character of this new form of “information diagram”.

The results of the competition will be published in a special edition of ARCH+, and there are also plans to organize a small exhibition which will travel between the various universities involved in the competition.

Jury:

Heinz Bude, Social Scientist/Economist
Joost Grootens, Graphic Artist
Sabine Kraft, Editor ARCH+
Joachim Krausse, Cultural Scientist
Philipp Oswalt, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
Philippe Rekacewicz, Geographer/Cartographer
Simon Rogers, The Guardian
Christian Weiss, Autodesk
GK VanPatter, Humantific
Ursula Kleefisch-Jobs, M:AI

You can download the PDF of winning entries in English here.

PRIZES: CATEGORY 1

Feel at Home in Your Home
Team (TU Berlin): Eleonore Harmel (Architecture), Mathias Burke (Architecture)

A Glimpse Over the Horizon
Team (YAAY, Basel, Switzerland): Indre Grumbinaite (Designer), Darjan Hil (Economist), Safak Korkut (Visual Communication), Nicole Lachenmeier (Designer), Kurosch Hadinia (Sociologist)

The Social Question of Democracy
Team (Berlin University of the Arts): Simon Schindele (Design), Young Sam Kim (Design), Philipp Koller (Design), Dovile Aleksaite (Design), Theresia Kimmel (Design), Sebastian Bödeker (Social Sciences)

Eisenhüttenstadt Out of Balance
Team (BTU Cottbus): Martin Maleschka (Architecture), Konstanze Jonientz (Architecture)

Chinese MigrantWorkers
Team (Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing/China): Wu YiTing (Design), Ma Pengbin (Design), Hou Ruimiao (Design), Gao Yang (Design), ZhuWenqi (Design)

Urban Soil in the Anthropocene
Development (University of Virginia/USA): Seth Denizen (Landscape Architect)

PRIZES CATEGORY 2

World Food
Team (HfG, Schwäbisch Gmünd): Stefanie Huber (Design), Sara Hausmann (Design), Diana Mühlhauser (Design)

Meat Eats Life
Development (Aachen University of Applied Sciences): Verena Mandernach (Design)

The Gutters are Filled with Gold
Team (SV, Berlin): Nayeli Zimmermann (Designer), Jenny Baese (Designer), Thomas Le Bas (Designer), Hanna Hilbrandt (Architect), Fiona McDermott (Architect), Anna Richter (Social Scientist), Laura Colini (Architect)

Shisha Bar as Social Environment
Development (RWTH Aachen): Michel Kleinbrahm (Architecture)

From Continuous Flow to Prepaid Drops
Team (ParaArtFormations, Berlin): Marcela Lopez (Ecologist), Miodrag Kuc (Architect), Juan Esteban Naranjo (Designer)

Bradford: Liquid Mixotopia
Team (Manchester School of Architecture, UK): Paul Gallacher (Architecture), Jack Stewart (Architecture), Abhi Chauhan (Architecture), Fatimah Abboud (Architecture), Hu Lin (Architecture)

COMMENDATIONS: 

Luxury Dirt
Team (Aachen University of Applied Sciences): Ulrike Rechmann (Design), Julia Roß (Design)

Wasteland
Team (BerlinWeißensee School of Art): Julia Pietschmann (Design), Henriette Artz (Design), Sebastian Jehl (Design)

‘Mainstay of Democracy’ or Mindless Papers with Opinion-Forming Power?
Team (fraujansen kommunikation): Angela Jansen (Design), Dr. Christian Gotthardt (Sociologist), Dr. Gert Hautsch (Journalist), Gerd Siebecke (Journalist)

The Sea-Level is Rising
Team (Berlin): Niklas Kuhlendahl (Architect), Max Soneryd (Artist)

Data is a Matter of Perspective
Team (Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Kiel): Uwe Steffen (Design), Benedikt Schipper (Design)

 

 

You can see the descriptions in German here

Hopefully next year we will see many more entries from the USA!

Related:

Learning From Otto Neurath See Here:

Before, During & After Isotype
Isotype Building Bridges

 

 

17
Oct

Making Sense of the Early SenseMakers

Thank you, William Playfair… for going beyond the words and the numbers.

As part of a “White Paper” we are doing at Humantific on the subject of data visualization, I have been enjoying revisiting some of the historical material from the 18th century. I always enjoy looking at the logic behind early data visualizations and learn a lot from the perspective of how to make things more understandable and clear.

For this study, I am spending more time specifically on William Playfair (1759-1823), among the first persons to create graphic representations of data (He was preceded by Joseph Priestly, who created the first timeline chart in 1765). Playfair is credited with being the inventor of line, bar and pie charts. For this paper, I am not focusing so much on how the charts work or don’t work, but, rather, what were they pictures of.

 William Playfair’s historic “Commercial and Political Atlas”, 1786,
described as the first major work to contain statistical graphs.

Reflecting on when this happened… I started to wonder: If Playfair came up with one of the first graphical representations of data, how did people make sense of all those numbers before? I mean, really, how did people actually make sense of everything before? 

When someone says the airplane was invented, we all think, “Wow, that was amazing,” but we don’t always put ourselves at that moment of time, and think about what it meant to not be able to get on a flight to go see your family across the ocean, to go down to the Caribbean for a beautiful vacation, to go to a meeting, etc, etc. I guess most of us would be much closer to our original birthplaces–and if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be going back that often.

So, back to that time when Playfair had that inspiration to represent numbers visually… or, as he called it, making “Data speak to the eyes”.  Being a visual learner, I can’t imagine what that would be like… the fact that studying any subject, would be just words and numbers. Would my ability to understand and learn (and go to the next level of learning and development) be seriously diminished? What would school have been for me growing up? Not that my school years reflected a tremendous amount of meaningful visualization, but it definitely was part of the vocabulary and it helped me learn better.

The second thought I had, was, being such a visual sensemaker myself, would I have started to draw things intuitively to understand them, or would I have stayed in that highly verbal world and struggled to operate in it?

I guess that we will never know the true answer to those questions since we can’t go back and unlearn all the visual language we now take for granted; however, I would venture to say (and I am sure many others would too) that it’s pretty likely that my ability to learn and excel would be diminished quite a bit. A highly verbal language only speaks to a part of the population, as we know from many studies on cognition and multiple intelligence theories.

Thank you, Playfair, for going beyond the words and the numbers, and revealing what is behind the data. For all of us visual thinkers and learners, it’s made a big difference! Really.

:::

[ And thank you to Howard Wainer and Ian Spence for republishing Playfair’s The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary ]

More on William Playfair on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Playfair

Image Source: Playfair, William. The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary. Wainer, H. and Spence, I., Eds. 2005. Humantific Collection, New York. Reproduced from Playfair’s Atlas, 3rd ed. London: J. Wallis, 1801.

Related on this Humantific blog:

Consider TIME / Big Data for WHEN?

16
Jan

Making Sense of Industries

We love and respect the complex history of what has become the sensemaking profession today. Here are more example images from Humantific’s Isotype Institute Collection. These are from 1955.

The Vienna-based Isotype Institute team, active in the 1920s-1950s, is widely recognized as an early pioneer in the commercial application of visual sensemaking. They applied their unique skill-set to the explanation of many business subjects, in addition to their social subjects work. These “Isotype Charts” are part of a 16-diagram series that explains the chemistry, manufacture, and use of plastics, with an emphasis on their application in the building industries. They appeared in the 1955 book, entitled Plastics and Building.

Isotype Institute work was not always focused on driving towards changemaking. In examples like this one, their focus was on explaining existing conditions within industries—what we would call the “today” picture—without any particular reference or speculation about the “tomorrow” picture.

Today, Humantific would consider this to be part of the Yin (without the Yang) component of changemaking. Pictures of “today” are not only helpful in constructing collective understanding of existing conditions—they are also great jumping-off points for cocreating futures.

We might point out that Isotype Institute was not just making sense of data-sets and information. They were looking at, and deciphering, many complex phenomena taking place in the field of focus, much of it rather abstract—including processes, chemical compositions, and various applications. They were using skills which can be referred to as information design, but they were not just designers of information. They could make sense of any subject, regardless of its state. From the Humantific perspective, they were early professional sensemakers. Their professional sensemaking often informed and accelerated the everyday sensemaking of others operating in organizational settings and in the public realm.

The output of Isotype Institute is immensely impressive and still highly influential today.

More on Isotype Institute

More on Otto Neurath, Gerd Antz & Maria Neurath

Note: For those interested in the finer points of Information Design history, we will point out three additional details:

1. Design was not a word that was used within Isotype Institute.

2. Isotype images were not made by individuals, but rather by a collaborative effort, within which the ‘Transformer” played a significant role—acting as Mediator, Organizer, Shaper between the information research and the graphic form.

3. Otto Neurath died in 1945, at the age of 63. Some see significant differences in images acredited to Isotype made after this date.

Image Source: Mactaggart, E. F. and H. H. Chambers. Plastic and Building. 1955. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

Social Visual SenseMaking / InfoGraphics 1890

Humantific Teaching Visual SenseMaking

02
Nov

Isotype Building Bridges

We are happy to share more historical sensemaking images from Humantific’s Isotype Collection. Active long before the “Big Data Era” arrived these Isotype examples are from 1943.

In early Isotype studio work, one can find many great examples of sensemaking acceleration techniques that are still in use today, including the comparison. Experts in presenting complex data-informed subjects clearly, the Isotype Institute team often used comparisons to help explain differences and similarities between groups, regions, and countries.

Reflecting a “simpler” time in history, Isotype work often (not always) involved two-party comparisons on select issues, as in this example. In this 1943 book, America and Britan, Only an Ocean Between, published in London for an English speaking audience, numerous aspects of the two countries are compared. In addition, a few 9-10 country comparisons are included in “18 Pictoral Charts Designed by Isotype Institute.” This human-centered approach to book creation, combining text, photographs, and diagrams, was referred to by the authors as “Reading Without Tears.”

As in much of Isotype work, the underlying purpose was optimistic and constructive: to build a bridge; to help accelerate understanding between diverse humans with the hope that this might create a better world.

From the book’s Foreword, by John Winant, then American Ambassador to Great Britain:

“America and Britain are learning to know one another… Such mutual knowledge will be more than ever essential when the battle ends and the task of reconstruction lies before us…If this century is to be the century of the common man, the common man must be informed of the facts by every means in the power of the expert — by writing, by pictures, by charts. For only so can he form the judgements on which a durable and democratic international reconstruction depends. This book will, I am sure, help to bridge whatever ocean still flows between our two countries’ knowledge and understanding of each other.”

Isotype created the visual symbol language (“International Picture Language”) as well as the diagrams. Considering that computers did not exist then, it is clear that Isotype Institute created—by hand—a staggering amount of excellent-quality social sensemaking material during their time. Even with its imperfections, much of that work remains inspiring for many still today.

Image Source: Florence, L. Secor. America and Britain, Only An Ocean Between. 1943. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

More on Isotype Institute 

GK VanPatter: What is SenseMaking?
[Speaking at SenseMaker Dialogs]

GK VanPatter: SenseMaking / The Karl Weick Question

CoCreation Missing No More: See: Markets for Giving Workshop

 

 

03
Oct

ReAppreciating Otto Neurath

At Humantific, we have tremendous respect for the work of the early Social SenseMaking pioneers—among them, the central figures of Isotype Institute: Otto Neurath (1882-1945), Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) and Marie Neurath (1898-1986).

In the Humantific Collection, we have numerous Isotype (International Picture Language System) artifacts. We will share some of the lesser-known example diagrams here, in this inspiration archive.

Based initially in Vienna, what the relatively small Isotype group was able to accomplish in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s remains a towering achievement in the practice of what we know today as Social SenseMaking.

At Humantific, we are interested in the Before, During, and After-Isotype eras, acknowledging that what we do today has many similarities, and as many differences.

Neurath, in particular, was deeply interested in contributing to the creation of a better, more unified world (“Words Divide, Pictures Unite”) and had specific notions regarding how that might best be accomplished.

Perhaps due to the orientations of its founders, Isotype Institute work tended to be strong on making sense of complex, data-driven content, while the participatory change-making process (cocreation process) component that we know today to be so important was essentially missing. Today we are more aware that making sense of the data is not in itself going to change the world. Hands-on participatory cocreation leadership is needed in orchestration with visualization.

Regardless of its imperfections, Isotype remains an important historical inspiration for many practicing SenseMakers, including the UnderstandingLab team at Humantific.

Stay tuned for more inspiring, early SenseMaking examples from the Humantific Collection.

Image Source: Central Bureau Voor de Statistiek 1944-1946: Statistisch Zakboek by Uitgeversmaatschappij W. De Haan N.V. Utrecht. 1947. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

More on Isotype Institute 

More on Otto Neurath

More on Gerd Antz

More on Maria Neurath

GK VanPatter: What is SenseMaking?

GK VanPatter: SenseMaking / The Karl Weick Question

CoCreation Missing No More: See: Markets for Giving Workshop

The OTHER Design Thinking

 

27
Aug

Data Visualization 1890

Those readers studying the parallel histories of visual sensemaking, information design, information architecture, statistical graphics and or data visualization will know that long before Richard Saul Wurman, Edward Tufte, Karl Weik, Otto Neurath, Gerd Arntz, Isotype Institute, Jacques Bertin, Fritz Kahn, or Willard Brinton came along, there existed various forms of what we now call visual sensemaking or social sensemaking. For decades, it has been a set of professions in constantly changing evolution. It has been referred to by numerous names, fragmented in many directionsfocused in various terrains with different skill-sets, tool-sets and purposes, but the work of unpacking and then explaining complexity has been around for more than 100 years. We love to find and study early visual sensemaking!

Shown here, from the Humantific Collection, are three examples of 19th century sensemaking in the societal context from Rand McNally World Atlas, published in 1890. Inside the atlas are a dozen beautiful diagrams that accompany hundreds of pages of maps and pictorial engravings.

Often, the individual creators’ names have been lost in history, but what they managed to create in 1890 with the tools of that era is rather amazing. Referred to in atlases of the day as “statistical diagrams” or “statistical graphics,” they were often visual depictions of data-driven facts focused on subjects such as Population, Race, Crop Yields, National Debt, Religions, School Enrollment, etc. Also appearing were more abstraction-based depictions (not based on data), such as visualizations of what the Solar System was perceived to be at that time in history.

In these 19th century data visulization examples, you can see the sensemaking device or technique of making comparisons. Depending on the subject, those comparisons might be from country to country, state to state, or year to year. More than one hundred years later, depictions of comparisons remain central to many sensemaking diagrams made today. Professional sensemakers know that comparisons provide context, and context aids in understanding.

As in the majority of data visualization being created today, most 19th century sensemaking work seen in atlases was focused on depicting past and present states.  At Humantific, we call these pictures of Yesterday and Today.

Also fascinating is that more than one hundred years after these 1890s visual comparison models were published, the American organizational theorist Karl Weick was speculating, in a rather non-visual 1995ish way, on the dimensions of sensemaking in organizations, pointing out that in order to give meaning to the present, humans compare it to similar events from their past. Many such unsyncronized realizations can be found in the various literatures.

In the 19th century, thinking about what we might be tomorrow and then moving towards that picture was not part of the statistical diagrams business, as it is for some, but not all sensemakers today. The truth is, a significant part of the now-very-popular data visualization community is still generating pictures of yesterday and today, not fully understanding what is missing.

Of course, one can generate pictures of yesterday and today from data sets, but creating pictures of tomorrow requires additional dimensions of skill in the mix, including applied imagination, and cocreation.

Effectively cocreating such visual pictures in real time with humans from multiple disciplines in the room requires additional skill dimensions that were not in the mix in 1890, and in some circles are just being recognized today. Today at Humantific, we integrate past, present, and future visual realizations as part of cocreated change making. For more than 15 years, we have been operating on the understanding that data visualization, in itself, is not enough to drive and ensure changemaking. In the real world, 99.9% of the time, change making has to be socially constructed. In other words, it has to be cocreated. This is part of the everyday bridging work that we love to do.

Viewing historical examples of data visualization in person, having original material on hand helps to inspire and inform how we think about our own work today and to better understand how its different!

Images Source: Rand, McNally. New Standard Atlas of the World. Rand, McNally and Company.  Chicago: The Continental Publishing Company, 1890. Diagrams by Unknown. Humantific Collection, New York.