Tag: Information Design

05
Jun

Data Visualization 1817

20170605090658_00001We love sharing the amazing history of Statistical Diagraming later called Information Design…later called Data Visualization. Also called Visual SenseMaking (broader subject).

This is a series of diagrams from Geographia Sacra 1817 published by Robert Wilkinson in London. We are most interested in HOW the diagrams were being made in that early era 200 years ago!

Above shows: Early “Chrono-Genealogical Chart” of the “Second Age of the World” showing the “Origins of Languages” Geographia Sacra 1817 Humantific Collection New York City.

20170605104419_00001“Chrono-Genealogical Chart” of the “Third Age of the World” Geographia Sacra 1817 Humantific Collection New York City.

20170605104450_00001“Chrono-Genealogical Chart” of the “Fifth Age of the World” Geographia Sacra 1817 Humantific Collection New York City.

RELATED:

HUMANTIFIC: Making Sense of the Early SenseMakers

HUMANTIFIC: Lost Stories in Information Design History

HUMANTIFIC: Making Sense of: “What Killed The Infographic?”

HUMANTIFIC: SENSEMAKING: The Karl Weick Question

HUMANTIFIC: Isotype: Building Bridges

HUMANTIFIC: Data Visualization 1890

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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..

05
Jun

Portrait of Sonoma County Launches

We are delighted to announce the launch of A Portrait of Sonoma County.

A Portrait of Sonoma County is part of the Measure of America social sensemaking book series created by Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis of the The Measure of America team in collaboration with Humantific. The Measure of America is an initiative of the Social Science Research Council. For more information visit measureofamerica.org

Key Findings:

An entire decade separates the life expectancies in the top and bottom census tracts.

Those who are born in Kenwood/Glen Ellen can expect to live 75.2 years, while those in Central Bennett Valley average 85.7 years.

Analysis of Sonoma County’s ninety-nine tracts shows a clear positive correlation between life expectancy and education: people in neighborhoods with higher educational attainment and enrollment have longer lives.

Variation in educational outcomes by census tract in Sonoma County is significant and meaningful. The range in the percentage of adult residents with less than a high school diploma is huge, going from a low of 0.4 percent in North Oakmont/Hood Mountain to a high of 46.1 percent in Roseland Creek. The range in school enrollment is likewise vast, from 53.8 percent in Forestville to 100 percent in Central East Windsor.

Men in Sonoma County earn about $8,500 more than women. This wage gap is similar to the gap between men and women at the state level, although it is around $1,000 smaller than at the national level.

Buzz:

The Press Democrat

Sonoma County Gazette

California United Ways

Healthy Sonoma

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..

07
Dec

Out of Balance Competition Heats UP!

Update: Our friends at Magazine ARCH+ in Germany are telling us that there has been a tremendous response to the Out of Balance Competition / Information Design after Otto Neurath.

By the end of the initial “Inscription” Phase that closed in early November, 495 teams from 40 countries had signaled their intention to submit over 1000 entries in January.

In some countries more teams have assembled than others.

Below are the five countries that have assembled the most teams:

In Germany 301 teams have assembled.

In Austria: 46 teams

USA: 25 teams

UK: 15 teams

Switzerland: 13 teams

It is going to be very interesting to see what 495 teams from 40 countries create!

Stay tuned for more!

Prize Money: 20,000 Euros

Competition Sponsors & Collaborators: Magazine ARCH+, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, Autodesk, Humantific, M:AI Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst.

From The Competition Description:

“Today we have access to an unencompassable wealth of data, much of it automatically generated: statistics, personal data, photos, documents, etc. Hardly anything seems able to elude this universal visibility in the digital age. At the same time, the present is increasingly more opaque. There are precise data for more and more questions of detail, but it is getting harder to find orientation and gain an overview of the present; the quantitative description of phenomena is getting denser, but understanding of the underlying relations and processes seems to be vanishing.”

Exhibition and Publication
“The competition submissions will be published by the competition’s organizers and exhibited in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin in Autumn 2013.”

Learning From Otto Neurath See Here:

Before, During & After Isotype
Isotype Building Bridges
Making Sense of Industries

 

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

27
Oct

Information Design: Not For Sale

Many people have responded to Amy Balliett ‘s article on The Do’s And Don’ts Of Infographic Design, including Nathan Yau’s rebuttal. You will find many comments about why her points don’t make much sense, and why we all believe she needs to learn more about information design basics (I mean, do you understand the chart above, which she uses as an example of good infographics?). Rather than continue on specifics about the actual infographics, I’d like to elaborate on the deep personal disappointment I felt when I read Balliet’s Do’s and Don’ts.

When I departed the working world to attend graduate school, I did so seeking something that brought more meaning to my work than commercial graphic design and communication could offer (I will add marketing and advertising to this category). It was a long and confusing journey that ultimately changed my life: in discussing my graduate thesis with my professor, Ramone Muñoz, I learned of Richard Wurman’s writing and work. I had found information design.

The specific article I read many years ago from Richard Wurman was a Design Journal publication called “Hats.” I devoured it. I had finally found what I had been looking for: substance, essence, a search for the truth, a focus on people. In short, information design was a logical side to design that helped people in their everyday lives, and in their everyday search for understanding. I found my ‘home’.

So when I read Amy Balliett ‘s article after many years of living and breathing information design, I was filled with sadness. At a time when information design in its varied forms is more commonplace than ever and is being recognized as an important aspect of  changemaking, she has taken a huge step backwards and stripped out everything good about information design thinking, replacing it instead with marketing fluff — pure visual appeal, distortion of content, and flat-out disregard for people in favor of profit. She recasts information design as all the things I was running from (Sell, Sell, Sell), in a public forum for all to hear — and worse yet — to replicate.

Information design principles should not be rewritten by relative newcomers who show no awareness or appreciation of the field’s long history. Let’s remember and learn from the true legacy of some of the great information design pioneers:

Otto Neurath, who developed Isotype as a universal language that would unite people and bring literacy to the illiterate

Jacques Bertin, who created graphical frameworks to improve understanding and visualizations of statistics

Richard Wurman, whose passion to make information easily understandable spurred a generation of “information architects”

Edward Tufte, whose valuable lessons from history demonstrate the art and science of making clear thinking visible

These people were out to help change the world, not sell another box of cornflakes or drive traffic to websites!

Thank you to the editors of Smashing Magazine for making the rebuttal possible. It is encouraging to see Nathan Yau advocate the real best practices of information design and data visualization: focus on content and tell a clear story that will engage readers. However, there are many more voices and insights yet unrecognized in this conversation. Information design contains many practicing professionals with deep knowledge.

Let’s elevate the conversation, please.

28
Jul

Visualizing the U.S. Debt Problem

With the economic crisis still lingering and talk of raising the $14.3 trillion “debt ceiling” to allow the U.S. to borrow more money, it is difficult to comprehend the large sums of money the government is accountable for. While the national debt is currently at $14.5 trillion, the total amount of U.S. unfunded liabilities, including Social Security, prescription drugs (Medicare Part D), and Medicare, comes to $114.5 trillion!

Oto Godfrey has created a compelling 3D visualization to put that number into human scale. Those of us in New York City can appreciate the relative size of those stacked $100 bills next to local landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

10
Apr

Eye Mag’s Blind Spot

With their Winter 2010 issue, Eye Magazine finally joins the conversation on the role of information design in the 21st century. Rather than investigate areas largely neglected by the design press (ie, the paradigm shifts underway in the field, new applications for information design in a changing world, and the shortage of skilled professionals), Eye instead presents a business-as-usual graphic design survey.

Opening the issue are highly subjective “great moments” in information design, critiqued by various designers and writers of the moment. The usual suspects of the info design canon are absent (no map of Napoleon’s march here), in favor of less obvious though often intriguing works, such as a completely hand-drawn series of guide books by Alfred Wainwright.

The feature articles provide only brief glimpses into information design, favoring more entry-level interests. While broader understanding of subjects such as Otto Neurath and Isotype are important, Eye seems to be unaware of the broader picture, including how visual sensemaking is moving the field beyond traditional notions of visualizing data and information. Also missing is any coherent view of the role now played by information design in organizational and social change making.

The most valuable contribution to the magazine (far in the back of the print issue) is Max Gadney’s article, “Understand, Visualize, Survive.” He lays plain the challenges long known in the design industry, with a resounding call to action to design educators to develop students into thinkers instead of mere stylists. Gadney’s tone is loud and clear in the admonition “There is no room for ego when understanding is the priority.” If only Eye magazine took hold of the issues raised by Gadney and invited wider discussion and exploration, this issue could very well have been a leap forward in information design journalism.

John Walters states in his editorial that “The contents of this issue imply that information design is not so much a specialist genre, more an essential fact of design life.” Eye merely grasped the low-hanging fruit and joined the bandwagon of others now discovering and touting information design, while serving up juicy visuals and mostly lightweight content to satisfy the trend. What Eye failed to address head-on is that information design itself must change and is already changing to better engage a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world. It is unfortunate that such a widely read communication design industry magazine would miss such an important opportunity. Perhaps mass appeal and steady sales trump meaningful, if provocative, journalism.

09
Nov

The LATCH model

Here’s an insightful short film that illustrates the LATCH model (also known as ‘The Five Hat Racks’).

In ‘Information Anxiety’ (1989) Richard Saul Wurman claims there exactly 5 ways to organize information and the acronym “LATCH” helps you remember them: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, and by Hierarchy.