A chart depicting the health plan proposed by the House Democrats has recently come to the forefront of the media. It is hard to overlook the rhetorical bias of this visualization—with almost comical overstatement and unnecessary visual complexity it depicts the proposed heath care system through a flow chart consisting of an entangled mess of arbitrarily-colored nodes, positioned with seemingly little rationale. Designed by the office of Rep John Boehner, it makes its rhetorical intent abundantly clear to any conscious observer.
March 29th, 2009
The authority of formlessness
Form inevitably creates narrative, disclosing the intent and the hand of the author. Whether linear or non-linear, any narrative contains a particular point of view. On the other hand, formlessness allows for unencumbered individual interpretation. I think of formlessness in its purest state as randomness. The only true opposition to structure, it gives equal importance to each structural entity. It is the only truly democratic (objective) view of information.
October 6th, 2007
The hypothesis in visualization
All visualization begins with a hypothesis, a hypothesis about the data that the choice of a particular formal expression aims to address. As previously determined, visualization is an expressive medium, and as such aims to communicate abstract ideas through the use of data. Any successful visualization, therefore, allows drawing conclusions about the underlying data. These conclusions, while often revealing or surprising even for the author of the piece, are nonetheless driven by a particular hypothesis—a hypothesis as general as simply selecting a topic or a particular type or range of data from within a certain context, with the anticipation of usefulness or insight, or as specific as setting out to prove or disprove a claim based on the characteristics of the data source.
November 8th, 2006
Visual rhetoric and the idea
The design of information can be understood as visual rhetoric. While often used in the pejorative sense, rhetoric means the art of speech and writing. As Hugues C. Boekraad writes in his essay in Copy Proof, rhetoric lessens or erases the distance between the message and the recipient. That is what communication design, at least in practice, sets out to achieve, and information design should be no different. The quality of the message being communicated is entirely dependent on intent, or, in other words, visual rhetoric.