design

Data visualization as interface / 2 comments

A recent rereading of Wired’s 2010 article “The Web is Dead” cemented a few thoughts of mine on where design in the online space might be headed. The article claims that our use of the web, meaning content delivered via the http protocol, is being eroded by apps—light-weight, low-cost, task-oriented programs. The article describes this as an effect of the natural progression of technology: as special interests start to take control of a new market it becomes fractured, producing silos that in turn allow more user friendly experiences and drive greater adoption.

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Design and the decentralization of web content

Websites are the predominant platform for most of the information we absorb. Of course, the site itself isn’t always the primary vehicle, with RSS having established itself as an alternate form of consumption, and search engines offering a similar yet broader form of aggregation. This has lead to two main content experiences. In one mode, content is presented in context of the full offering, as part of a structural framework reflecting the identity of the source. In the other, content is represented generically and modularly alongside content from other sources.

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Artistic data-based visualization

Lisa Jevbratt, Interface: Every (IP)

Lisa Jevbratt, Interface: Every (IP)

In his article “Visualization Criticism—The Missing Link between Information Visualization and Art”, Robert Kosara analyzes the gamut of data-based visualization between the two poles of pragmatic and artistic visualization. On pragmatic visualization techniques, he writes: “Pragmatic visualization techniques are also often general, and can be applied to many different data sets. This is considered a strength, because the user can gain experience with the method and apply that to different data, rather than having to start from scratch again.” The opposite is true for artistic visualization, which communicates a specific concern, using data as a proof that the concern is real. As opposed to pragmatic visualization, which aims for generalization, artistic visualization aims for specificity in the relationship between representation and subject matter.

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Thoughts on universal design / 1 comment

I recently spoke to a student about the goals of the One Laptop per Child user interface, and was surprised at how difficult it was to answer the question as to how I felt about taking a ‘universal’ design approach. I was quick to defend my belief in universal design as a means by which to broaden access to, or appreciation of, any designed object, acknowledging that design is necessarily subjective. Yet on further reflection, is universality ever achievable? Is it presumptuous, as designers, to think that we could design an interface that would be universally understandable?

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Metaphor and analogy in visualization

Curtis Wong of Microsoft’s Next Media Research group describes the architecture of information in three layers of what he calls a contextual pyramid: Engagement, context, and reference. Engagement draws the recipient in, context offers an explanation of the information source, and reference gives the ability to draw conclusions and connects to related resources. Metaphors and analogies are rhetorical devices which are used most often at the level of engagement, and can apply to concepts expressed through any form or medium.

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