Camera+ is my favorite photo app for shooting images. The controls and settings are well thought out and make it easy for me to shoot things. Going through their latest update notes I couldn’t help but appreciate the detail they took in explaining the bug fixes that they solved. Not only do they detail what the issues were and what action it was preventing. On top of that they also add a bit of humor that doesn’t come across as contrived. It reads that they took meticulous detail in fixing the bug and they’re letting off a bit of celebration with a smile. I don’t think this approach works for every app, but it fits into the effort of this app.
Just My Type by Simon Garfield is one of those books that deserves to be found on the same shelf as The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst and Make it Bigger by Paula Scher. Just My Type goes into great technical detail while at the same time flexes personal stories about typography. A sure sign of a favourite book of mine is to highlight lines upon lines of things worth noting. The catch was that if this book had been a hard copy I’m not sure if I would have wanted to mark it up.
Garfield goes into great detail to keep thing contemporary by fitting websites and current events when appropriate. Apparently I’ve been out of the loop for quite a while in regards to Typophile and Gill but it made for interesting reading in the book. I liked how the format went from issues to fontbreaks where quick bursts about fonts where mentioned. If anyone wants to consider a strategy about retaining rights to what they’ve created, Doves is a good place to start.
Most design books are kind of niche. Their audience is already set up just by the fact that they will want to read something new that is relevant today as tomorrow. Just My Type fits into that category easily but I also would buy this book for readers outside of the normal type geeks. The stories captured reflect a drive that anyone could be inspired by, or perhaps question their sanity in equal lengths.
I’ve wondered out loud before about compressing buttons on to a flat screen. Yet I still have to wonder why people bother making plastic dials? Is there some sort of tactile quality that a tap and swipe can’t provide or is it more about people being used to one type of tool like a dial and don’t feel comfortable experimenting with their unknowns?
Coming across the demo this morning, one of the takeaways was that the artist could use the same tool that in new ways because he didn’t have to worry about twisting dials. I bought the app myself to test it out. Having never used the tactile version I’m probably not the best person to talk about the pros and cons of the screen version. With that said the dials were a bit difficult to use…
If I knew a month a go what I do now, I wouldn’t have believed it. Everything imaginable and unimaginable happened. I survived intact and am here to think back about it. I suppose it’s a warm up of the things to come. Until next month, same time, hopefully same place, below are some of the things I was able to catch.
NYC city worker painting a traffic light #walkingtoworktoday
Last week Scion flew and put me up to test drive their new Scion iQ. This is my review about driving the car for a couple hours in LA. Typically I’ll review design books, interview designers, pass along links and talk about user experiences. So when I was emailed a couple months ago to see if I would be interested in test driving a car, I figured why not?
The event was held over three days at the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California. I had the option of either going earlier in the week or later in the week. The group of media people (blogs, magazines, apps) that I was with was around 24. I’m guessing that the earlier week group was around the same size. The first evening was mainly about getting to know people while the next day was essentially the full event while the third day was meant for travel home. The main day was divided into two parts. The morning consisted three sessions. The first was taking a look at the safety features and other elements that were unique to the design of the Scion iQ. The second part was looking at the marketing launch for online, TV and print of the car. The final part of the morning was viewing a short film and gallery tour.
The afternoon was when we got to drive the car around LA. Each car was partnered up with two people. Serendipitously I ended up driving with Saundra Marcel who happened to have just graduated from SVA’s Design Criticism MFA and was there for Design Bureau Magazine. Needless to say we had a lot of interesting conversations during the drive. Each group was given a map with two routes on it. The typical drive was supposed to be 50 minutes. I think we ended up around 120 minutes from start to finish.
How was the drive?
The designer of the car went to great lengths on the inside to make it not feel like a small city car. During the feature explanation they talked about some of the give and take to make the driver and front passenger not feel compressed. The engine was designed in such a way that the driver had more leg room. The passenger side ended up with a decent amount of space because the glove box was taken out and placed underneath the seat. The back area had some interesting trade-offs too. The back was either a trunk or a space for one other person. There were two back seats though I think it would be pushing it trying to fit four people in the car for long periods of time. There also wasn’t a spare tire. They felt that the service kit was sufficient. I would have felt more comfortable with a tire. During the drive we ended up needing to make a U turn. Another feature that was talked about was how tight the car can turn with its wheel base. I have to admit that making a really tight U turn was extremely easy.
As I was driving the car had decent acceleration for its size. I did feel slightly unstable accelerating past 45 miles an hour though. The steering wheel going past that speed felt a bit wobbly. I also found that the shape of the steering wheel where the thumbs rested was slightly bothersome. Not a huge deal but if I had the option I probably would have wanted a steering wheel without the thumb rests. Another issue that I had in front of me was the speedometer. As I was driving I would try to quickly glance to see the information in front of me. The numbers were either placed too closely together or too small. I found myself looking down longer than I should have.
The biggest problem with the car was the blind spots. There were a couple times where I couldn’t pass quickly because I wasn’t sure if a car was beside me. The side mirror’s were small but I don’t think that was the problem. Looking at my photos I noticed that the back window was tinted in some areas and that the corner sides were blocking a lot of visibility. I’m not sure how they can fix it but I think that contributed to me not being able to see as much as I would have been comfortable with.
The photos that I took above were of two different cars. Any image that had carpet visible was slightly modified while all others were from the car that I drove. I liked the fact that it seemed that car was easily modifiable on the exterior and interior. The modularity was quite appealing. With that said to make things the way I would have wanted would have been considerable on the cost and probably made it almost as much as a basic Mini Cooper.
In the city
As I was driving the Scion iQ I was trying to figure out who would be driving this. It’s clearly designed for the city because of the size for parking and quick turning. It would be very easy to drive in NYC. But typically for me if I needed a car it would be to pick up something that couldn’t be delivered. If I had to pick something up from IKEA for instance I don’t know if I could unless I put it on the roof. On the other hand if I had to make a quick commute to work outside of Manhattan I think this car would be a great option. I wouldn’t be spending too much on gas and would get me there quite quickly.
Having had a day to consider how I consumed information about Hurricane Irene, what became clear is that most of the information relayed to viewers on TV was available without the dramatics online. Looking back Twitter did help considerably in terms of finding sources of where to look online and provided valuable information such as weather alerts around NYC about the possibility of tornadoes and displayed videos & photos first hand. When press conferences were live on TV, those same feeds were typically streamed online and the main points repeated via Twitter. Live satellite imagery was readily available online as well between apps and sites. While thankfully the power stayed on, if it had gone off the possibility of staying informed was potentially available via my iPad (as long as 3G stayed up). I could have listened to the radio while checking up again with apps and Twitter. While there’s debate about the role of media hype during the hurricane from TV newscasters, I think the more interesting thing to note is that if a person was moderately connected online they really didn’t need TV. The difference was that one medium’s content was pretty raw and open to interpretation while the other was based on drama to pass along information.
Below are a couple of sequenced time shots from my apartment durring the hurricane…
Last week I spent a couple days in Manhattan Beach California test driving the 2012 Scion iQ. Tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of the experience. However having never been to LA I thought I’d post a couple images of my first impression of the beach. I have to admit I really enjoyed walking around a new environment for a couple days in between driving. Between jumping around in the water and walking around the huge homes near the boardwalk made the trip quite enjoyable and relaxing.
Longtime friend of Design Notes, blogger and now author James A. Reeves launched his book The Road to Somewhere last Thursday night at the powerHouse Arena. For the Launch he invited a number of people to share personal road stories along with James reading from the book. The guest readers would be quite familiar to those that follow design. One of my favorite designers out there, Candy Chang described road trips with her families white van. Amazingly every image show showed had the van in it. Unbeknownst to me, Adam Greenfield had access to military installations in the US. He talked about some of the installations his visited and how they have transfered over time. Cassim Shepard continued the talk by sharing some of his travels through a number of south western states. Gary Hustwit wrapped up the evening sharing the story of a guitar along with the artist that had used it. After he finished he brought the guitar to the front and sang a song from the previous guitar owner with the Wildwood Sisters! I thought it was a great way to end the event.
I’m really happy for James and this book. I’ve been following his adventures through his blog for quite some time. While I haven’t finished the book, it’s been interesting to see some of his thoughts started on the blog find another life in the book. Below are a number of spreads that I shot. I highly recommend this book if for no other reason than to read the thoughts of a unique and thoughtful individual that wouldn’t be found anywhere else.
This was the invite that went out for the opening (copy + pasted)
Book Launch party for THE ROAD TO SOMEWHERE by James A. Reeves
“The inspiration is so simple: Head out at random into America and see what you find. James A. Reeves found the America no one seems to be looking for anymore, and he also found himself.” —Roger Ebert
James A. Reeves’s photo memoir chronicles his journey of self discovery across America. He will be joined by Cassim Shepard, Adam Greenfield, Candy Chang, and Gary Hustwit for a discussion about how artists address the American landscape in their work. Featuring musical guests The Wildwood Sisters!
About ‘The Road to Somewhere’:
‘The Road to Somewhere’ is an unusual and seductive book—one that speaks honestly, and without pretension, about contemporary ambivalence and anxiety and the countless miles we travel looking for answers.
By the time he was twenty-eight, James A. Reeves had bounced through numerous jobs—everything from a carpet salesman and barista to an elementary school teacher and record label owner—eventually finding himself settled in New York in the early aughts, with the country itself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. While working at a design studio and also teaching, whenever he could find a few days he would buy a ticket to anywhere cheap, rent a car, and drive in the direction of whatever towns struck his fancy—Truth & Consequences, Delta, Dinosaur—racing blindly through back roads in Nevada and Indiana, South Carolina and California. He was troubled by his seemingly aimless career path and a general inability to know what should come next on the way to manhood, to a meaningful life; and he found himself unable to resist comparing his choices to the more straightforward and honorable path followed by his grandfather and, to a lesser degree, his father.
‘The Road to Somewhere ‘is a bold visual testament to taking it all in: the heartbreaking grit of lonely motels, the inescapable allure of the Vegas neon glaze, and the tremendous power of storytelling. In a time when so many invest in virtual relationships, this book is a celebration of personal interactions with strangers and a love song to the physical exhaustion that comes after hours of driving, when the road gets blurry and the voices on the radio sound like raw static. What results from his travels over 40,000 miles and almost five years is a photo-memoir that captures an American moment that is both unsettled and transcendent.
JAMES A. REEVES is a writer, educator, and partner at Civic Center, an urban design studio. He lives in New Orleans.
Candy is a public installation artist, designer, urban planner, and TED Senior Fellow who likes to make cities more comfortable for people. She’s passionate about redefining the ways we use public space to share information important to our neighborhoods and to our individual well-being. Recent projects include transforming an abandoned house in New Orleans into an interactive wall of dreams, an abandoned high-rise in Fairbanks turned into an emotional beacon for memories and hopes, and stickers that help residents voice what businesses they want in vacant storefronts. She founded Civic Center with James A. Reeves, a civic design studio in New Orleans, and she recently received a 2011 Tulane University/Rockefeller Foundation Urban Innovation Fellowship to develop Neighborland.org, a tool to help residents shape future businesses and services in their neighborhoods. See her work at
http://candychang.com/ | http://civiccenter.cc/
Adam is managing director of Urbanscale, a New York City-based urban systems design practice, co-founder of the collaborative platform Do projects, and author of ‘Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing’. He teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, drinks his coffee scalding hot and black, and sure likes him some doom metal.
Gary Hustwit is an independent filmmaker based in New York and London. He has produced eight feature documentaries, including the award-winning “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” about the band Wilco; “Moog”, the documentary about electronic music pioneer Robert Moog; and an experimental feature film with the band Animal Collective. Hustwit worked with punk label SST Records in the late-1980s, ran the independent book publishing house Incommunicado Press during the 1990s, was Vice President of the media website Salon.com in 2000, and started the indie DVD label Plexifilm in 2001. In 2007 he made his directorial debut with “Helvetica”, a documentary about graphic design and typography. “Helvetica” marked the beginning of a trilogy of design-related films, with “Objectified”, about industrial design and product design following in 2009. “Urbanized”, about the design of cities, will be released in late 2011. He is often jet-lagged and always guitar-obsessed.
Cassim is the founding editor of Urban Omnibus, an online publication for The Architectural League of New York. Alongside his editorial role, he produces non-fiction media about the design, planning, and experience of cities, buildings and places. He has lectured at New York University; Parsons, The New School for Design; The National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India; and The Cities Programme at the London School of Economics. He has exhibited work at The Musee de la civilisation, Quebec; The Cineteca di Bologna; The Salone del Mobile, Milan; and The Venice Architecture Biennale 2006. Shepard studied filmmaking at Harvard University, urban geography at the University of London, and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently an adjunct assistant professor of architecture at Columbia University and a Poiesis Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.
http://urbanomnibus.net/ | http://archleague.org/
With special musical guests: THE WILDWOOD SISTERS!
I dropped by on Friday after work to catch up with Matthew from Nooka. While I was there he showed me a couple of the newest time pieces that have just been released. The one that caught my eye was the Nooka Zub Zoo 40. I think it’s their first watch designed to swap wristbands easily with different colors. Instead of screws or pins, these bands simple slide out. I’d be curious to see what a black Zub Zoo would look like with the inside band as white. Since I was there I thought I’d shoot a couple images of the Zub Zoo 40’s. One thing that is hard to notice from the product until it’s put on is the ergonomics and shape. The straight on view is very straight. Once on the angles really come alive to fit the wrist. I’ve got a lot of Nooka’s, the shape of this one might be my favorite one to date. There aren’t many issues with the watch though I did find that the buckle design makes it slightly difficult to take off. I had to put my finger under the strap to push it out. The watch is a little light for my liking. I tend to like a lot of weight with a watch. That’s a minor thing as I suspect most people prefer it the other way around and have it light as possible. In terms of the design, I’ve heard that the Zub design, this is what some of the other watches will transition to. That’s great as I think it’s a real nice evolution of their line.
Aside from the new Zub Zoo design, there’s new packaging from Nooka worth mentioning. It’s entirely one piece of papper cut and folded to make a really strong box. As you can see above, it’s a really intricate design to get everything to fit together nicely.
While I was at Nooka I met Kotomi from IDEA which is based in Tokyo hanging out at Nooka too. After I was finished shooting the Nooka stuff we all headed out for dinner where she showed us some pretty cool design stuff that comes out of IDEA. Below are some of my favorite design’s that they have.
Inspired by the series by Stephen Wilkes’ Day to Night, I compressed yesterday’s afternoon bright blue sky with this morning’s sunrise. Below are a couple experiments with both images combined along with the originals shot from my iPhone.
The AIGA engaged Gesture Theory to review the AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries 2010 website and provide our recommendations on how to improve the site for the 2011 launch. In the proposal they expressed the importance of building an online experience that tells the story behind the data. As we looked at the data it became apparent that the design philosophy should focus around adding visuals to compliment the numbers in order to make it more appealing and easier to consume for the reader. We approached the project in a number of phases. First, we identified a number of “quick-win” design changes that would improve the site and add value immediately. Future phases will involve iterating over the coming year with other gradual improvements to existing features and functionality throughout the site.
We planned a quick 3-week sprint from start to final release that incorporated equal efforts toward UX, design and development. Our first priority was to perform a technical assessment to determine what we could do in the limited amount of time. That involved looking at the provided data and legacy systems already in place. Next, we looked at the navigation of the site, while keeping in mind both what a first-time viewer and returning viewer might expect. We also performed basic use-case analysis to understand the different types of readers. Sample viewers include an HR manager looking to create a job listing with an appropriate salary; an employee looking to see where they fit in with their colleagues; an employer looking to see where the market is; a student that is about to enter the job market for the first time; or a career-changer looking to explore different roles in the industry. Generally, we found that a person is either looking to compare salaries to see if they’re being compensated appropriately (or compensating appropriately, in the case of an employer), compare the market conditions of their region to other regions or to understand what they can work up to in compensation. From there we reworked the sitemap and outlined the data visualization through wireframes. Once we had a good idea of the structure of the site we explored a number of visual design approaches that best represented the content through charts, typography and layout. While we were exploring the design, a prototype was being developed in a staging environment that allowed for quick testing for improvements before final release.
Each section was examined closely for ways to improve the experience.
Looking at the site, we adjusted and renamed some of the sections to better reflect the story behind the content. “Overview” was renamed to “National summary,” and became the site landing page. Previously,the first thing that people saw was the introduction letter from the Executive Director, which we didn’t think was valuable for repeat visitors. The “Salary calculator” was improved by displaying the results on the same page as the filters. “About” is a new section that combines insights from Richard Grefé as well as information about the AIGA and Aquent. “Definitions” provides descriptions for each of the highlighted positions and outlines the methodology used to collect the results. In the previous version, “Resources” contained a few links that were located in a side bar for a couple pages. In the new version of the site, it was expanded and moved to its own section with the addition of visuals. “Feedback” is a new section that opens up the conversation to allow the readers the ability to comment and provide suggestions on how the AIGA can improve the site.
National Summary of total compensation
We took a close look at how the data had been presented in the past. Previously, by just showing tables of numbers, a person looking at a glance didn’t have an easy time comparing positions. Combining both the salary and additional compensation into a bar chart allows a person to compare relationships quickly. We also enhanced the experience and interactivity by adding a mouse over feature on the bars, which reveal additional information when activated. Using the salary data, we calculated hourly and daily rates based on an average 2,000-hour work year. For the additional compensation, we broke out the total value along side the total compensation. And for each position in the grid, mousing over the titles provides the description for that position.
Median total cash compensation 2000–2010
We wanted to visualize the historical data as opposed to just displaying a list of numbers. After laying out the data and connecting the dots, the resulting presentation was much more impactful. It’s now very easy to see and consume the salary trends for each position over the past decade. And if a user wants to view the actual numbers, they simply hover over a particular year.
Previously, depending on how the salaries were filtered, the results page would often be empty. Even more frustrating was the fact that the results (or lack thereof) would be displayed on a different page. That meant that after a person spent time specifying all of their criteria, they would often have to press the back button and start all over again. By placing the filters on the same page in the left rail, the results change dynamically with every selection allowing for quick access and comparisons. In addition to the filters, there is a suggestive search located in the drop down menus that makes filtering by a specific position or location much easier.
As the site evolves over the short and long term, the feedback form is intended to open up the conversation and allow the readers to sound off on how they would like to see the site improve.
AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries 2010 website
July blew by pretty quickly, it occurred to me today that in eight weeks we will be in October. That seems kind of scary to me. But that’s in the future and this series is about taking a look back. By putting together some of my favourite images from the past month, certain patterns emerged that on first glance I might not have noticed. Shooting the weather outside my apartment window happened more often than I realized. The heat made for some volatile action outside. While I do like looking out my window I think I’m going to push a bit further in different directions to see what else is out there.
Not sure what happened but 23rd between 8 & 7 is closed with a lot of fire trucks
A couple months back I was contacted by Treadlie, an Australian magazine described for bike lovers, would be bike lovers (like me) and those that appreciate great bike design—a magazine devoted to culture, fashion and design asking about some of the David Byrne Bike Racks Photos I Shot back in 2008 walking around NYC. As with a lot of what I shoot, here’s my post Walking Around NYC Finding The David Byrne Bike Racks back in the day. I’m happy to report those photos found a home in print. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Treadlie before they contacted me, but with that said going through the magazine, it’s really well put together. I don’t really bike at all but love everything around the culture. If you’re a fan you might want to check it out yourself.
Where has July gone, we’re almost ten days in. Things are moving at a speed that I almost forgot to add my monthly post collecting some of my fav images I shot. Looking back now it looks like there was a balance of images reflecting weather, events and the typical stuff going on at street level. The transition form May to June was so, so with the weather. Now it’s just hot, humid and intense. This should make for an interesting July to shoot.
Google+ offered something this weekend that I haven’t experienced in quite a while. I can’t remember the last time I was excited to deconstruct something on a platform scale. There’s minor things that bother me about the platform, but for a V1 I don’t think it should have gone much further than what it launched. There’s a lot of stuff that they can build out, they just need to observe and listen to who’s been using it to decide what features should be blown out for the next couple of months.
As I was bouncing around from section to section, comparing feature to feature, what struck me first is how Google looks like they’ve studied the other popular platforms out there and tried to compress them into a simple features of their new product. In essence rendering the other platforms obsolete. At times I saw and used stuff that reminded me of Tumblr, Linkedin, Foursquare, WordPress, Skype, Facebook and Twitter. What I didn’t see or was reminded much was the music platforms out there, nor a really big video push. In terms of my own usage, up until now most of my time spent with Google has been with their Reader. I made the mistake of using Mobile Me years ago and haven’t changed my calendar or email service yet. Since Google+ I’ve noticed that I’m in Google a lot more. One of the first things I noticed that was a touch of brilliance is the little gray notification box that turns red when an alert is sent. While notification alert boxes on my iPhone feel annoying, it doesn’t on my browser. There’s almost an expectation that there should be something going on there.
Overall things feel a bit manual at this point. I can’t really push images into my stream in realtime. I have to download photos from other services and upload them. I should be able to take a photo on my iPhone and push into a gallery. Maybe a person can do that already and I haven’t been able to figure it out. I also don’t understand why there isn’t any integration with Google Reader with Google+. It seems like a no brainer to have a one button push into my stream. Another Google integration I want is with Google Analytics. I want to be able to see some data on what I’m posting. I want to see views, clicks, and how people got to my link. I don’t need to know who did the click, but and isp would be nice.
I’m still trying to figure out what is the best way to share a link. Typically I’ll copy + paste the link into the field, watch the image load and publish. It’s not that pretty to be honest. I’ve also noticed that there’s no character limit which means I could copy + paste an entire article from someone else. I do think that ability is a big deal. I’ll be experimenting a bit with dropping in my own posts like that to see what happens.
Comparing the mobile experience to the desktop, mobile feels a bit more streamlined though I sometimes feel like I’m missing something from the desktop. With that said, Google+ is on my homescreen icon set. The location feature isn’t working on my iPhone 3GS. I suspect once the app is released that feature will work.
Time will tell about how much time I’ll use this product and figure out if it gives me an advantage that those other platforms I mentioned above can’t. I also suspect that my list of product updates will evolve as well. My first comment on Google+ was that I wasn’t sure what was public or private. After a couple days that isn’t much of an issue for me. There are few opportunities to watch something on this scale evolve so it will be interesting to see what happens with their next iteration now that they’ve made something pretty decent.
Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to be a part of an AIGA Webinar titled Devices Everywhere with Ethan Eismann and moderated by Callie Neylan.
In the next day or two there should be a more in depth recap of the actual discussion on the AIGA website. For the time being though I thought I’d share some of my points in response to the design landscape within the context of devices everywhere. Below are some of my my points to the design landscape within the context of devices everywhere, a recap from the AIGA can be read on their site.
Designing for mobile first
A couple years ago, the typical steps for designing something on screen meant that a designer designed for a desktop browser. Trying to interact with the site on a mobile device was almost an afterthought. But with more focus on product design and mobile devices, sites and apps are now being designed for mobility first, desktop second. The focus of the desktop has evolved too. Depending on the functionality a desktop might focus more on settings and editing features while the tasks and activities are more focused outside on a mobile device.
It’s kind of fragmented
There’s a lot of tactical and strategic considerations to be made. Primarily is how and why a person will be using the device, and which device, and will there be multiple devices that need to share and interact with each other. How is the content being used on the devices going to be saved, opened and shared? Will two different type of devices be able to interact with each other.
Content that is slightly dynamic can be viewed in almost an infinite number of ways
Think about a blog post—someone can tweet it, email it, view it on tons of different rss feed readers (keep in mind that some of the ui is different on the same rss readers depending on the platform), reblogged and copy + pasted all with a simple tap of a mobile device. How that content is parsed and displayed in new formats all makes for an interesting challenge. Encourage people to share a message or put up a wall that no one has time to read. Images are another issue along with the growing ability to aggregate and embed sound.
People can click, press or do some sort of motion like a wave to do an action
People designing can’t rely on a person clicking. There’s no cursor or mouse over ability on the iPhone and iPad. There’s tapping and swiping gestures that open up the abilty to challenge interactions that were never possible before. Motion sensors can pick up interactions that connect to other devices. People might be typing with one hand and doing something completely different in the other hand.
We have to design around connectivity: wifi, 3 & 4G, and no connectivity at all
When we we’re just designing for the desktop browser, the internet either worked or it didn’t. With devices that changes entirely. How does an app work when there’s no connectivity vs when there is. How do files cache and load when the network speed changes depending on location.
Not only do we have to deal with different browsers, we have to deal with devices and different sized screens
Depending on what type of app is being designed, the interactions are going to be different on different mobile devices. Screen real estate, proportions and formats all need to be considered. Some options are to make the grid fluid and flexible while other times have to be designed differently depending on context. How a tablet might be used could be different from someone using and taking a smart phone everywhere.
There’s the question of how finished a product should be for a release—fully polished or release and iterate
Depending on the product, size of team, budget and timelines of a project, and facing a lot of unknowns about what a person or market is willing to use, the product development cycle might release fast and often fixing and evolving with each iteration. Other strategies rely on keeping the development as secret as possible and release a polished product.
We have to design with and around api’s that can be updated without advance warning
Designing around dynamic data that can be mashed together to create awesome experiences is cool. What’s not cool is when the experience is designed around a data set that may change without any warning.
The fact that we now can measure just about anything has implications for the design process
This isn’t a new idea, but the speed that things can be measured and send alerts to someone is interesting. With that valuable information available at a person’s fingertips allows for decisions to be made in realtime. Designing around that level of dynamic speed could be challenging.
While this isn’t a definitive list, below are a couple sources that I’ve found helpful as I evolve my design skills.
Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World: Adaptive Path on Design
By Peter Merholz, Todd Wilkens, Brandon Schauer, David Verba
iOS (need to sign up)
I was cruising around Synchroness this morning when I came across the YouTube video Kilian Martin: A Skate Regeneration. It was quite popular after I tweeted it this morning so I figured I’d post it here.
I don’t post that many videos like that above, though it did remind me of a post from 2008 titled In Respect To Snowboarding. If you liked the skateboarding film you’ll probably enjoy Magic Flashlights too.
I’m pretty excited to mention that I’m part of the next AIGA Webinar discussing devices everywhere with Ethan Eismann and moderated by Callie Neylan. We’ve gone through a rehearsal with one more lined up before the actual talk on Wednesday, June 22 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. While the title refers to devices the discussion will talk about product designers, different processes, a couple case studies of apps being made and two of my favorite topics, agile and iteration. This webinar is for AIGA members though hopefully it will be made public afterwards. You can find out more info about signing up at www.aiga.org/webinar-devices-everywhere/
There are so many good things going on with this talk that Steve Jobs delivered at Apple WWDC 1997. I’ve watched it a couple times and I suspect I’ll have listened to it a couple more times before this weekend is over.
Since starting to aggregate some of the images I take each month as separate posts I’ve let the titles of each speak for them self. However for May I wanted to give slight context. I can’t think of a busier, crazier month than the one that just flew by. There wasn’t much of a spring. It started off rainy, foggy and gray. From there it just got really hot and muggy, not much in between. Personally I can’t think of a time that I pushed myself further professionally and traveled more miles. I visited Montreal in the beginning of the month and Cancun near the end while staying close to home in NYC for the middle part. This was also the month that I started shooting more images publicly with Instagram. It pains me that I still have a iPhone 3GS for taking images, but hopefully soon enough Apple will release an upgrade that is worth buying. Now that summer is here things will allow me to catch my breath for a week or two before I have to shift gears again…
At first glance I really liked the evolution of tools image. It starts of with an arrowhead tool and slowly morphs to a cursor. After thinking about it for a couple minutes I realized like a lot of the other tools on the image they’re not really used any more and some are pretty instinct, is the cursor the next on the list to stop being relevant? Up until recently people interacting with computers had a few options with the most likely case being a mouse (and/or Wacom tablet) and a cursor. But now that we have touch screens that allow for gestures which means there’s no need to see a cursor. Another gesture is the motion sensor—one of the more successful commercial applications is the Kinect for the Xbox. People are making all sorts of interesting interactions with it that go past the idea of games. However my favorite example of a physical gesture comes from the artist Daniel Rozin. Above is an image from an opening I attended a couple years ago. There’s a really fascinating interaction of play and motion that goes on when a person viewing them self through a different material.
I have to admit that I’ve never bought anything from Groupon. With that said I think there’s something kind of interesting about how a person could interpret it as a real time index of stuff that people are willing to buy at a discount. Case in point: Donald Trump. He wraps his name around just about anything imaginable. He got a lot of heat for his recent political comments. What was interesting to see was a Groupon sale to one of his hotel rooms in Atlantic city. If you look closely at the details of the sale, not one person was willing to opt in. I don’t think it’s possible not to equate people’s buying actions with what he was saying. It’s debatable about how much a person should care about one sale that didn’t get one person. However it does open up a lot of different opportunities for real time info that goes past the typical data points that people typically measure.
Probably the most over used phrase when it comes to publishing is “story telling”. Narrative works in many ways. Sure there’s the observations of the author, chronological aggregation is another (think wikipedia), but there’s also a third that brings fragmented sources together that are more personal. Let’s say a person check’s in (data point one), adds an image to instagram (data point two), shoots another image that is published to Flickr (data point three) that is sent to Facebook automatically (data point four). Each of those streams or pipes might have one or two followers but is pretty unlikely that anyone is following or cares to connect all the dots together. However if there was an automated way all of a sudden all that data makes a story worth looking at.
I’ve been experimenting how data is suddenly displayed in tweets for a while. Typically it’s with a photo though I’m seeing audio files slipping into the stream. Comparing how I would normally do a post with a couple images, I’d drop them on Flickr, copy the html text into the post and press publish. Tonight I got more readers seeing the post as a tweet with the images associated with each other than I could hope with an actual post (keep in mind that people to get context are reading the post).
Again here’s how I’d normally post something like this:
To get this post right I had to observe something worth shooting last fall. Tonight I connected a dot that I never forgot about. To release it though, it was simply dropping a couple links via a photo hosting site on to Twitter vs trying to compose a post on WordPress. Something to note…
Last week was pretty much non existent for finding anything on the net. There was a ton to do that Google Reader was barely opened. However what I did notice with what I was saving there was a strong element of visualization. Everything from sparklines to artist’s interpretations of data by hand.
SisTeMu was the name of the musical notation system that a designer in Spain created. The system is based on geometric forms and color.
I really like the idea of taking something like a stamp and making way more interesting with AR. I think it could be quite useful with helping determine what’s inside the package before a person opens it.
The video visualizes time in in sacred geometry with music to understand changes in perception.
There’s a nice cross section of illustrations from Tatiana Plakhova mentioned on Datavisualization.ch. What’s interesting is while they look like they are representing data, however everything is created by hand. This a great example of exploring how data could be explored while not being held back with technical constraints.
A timely post that draws data, politics, war and interfaces together from both the conceptual stage and game environments.
Very cool idea to display data in a tweet. I think there’s tons of potential with dynamic data being displayed in a manner that could be copy + pasted into other forms without images.
While the idea of being able to mount an iPhone on any surface is a great concept, halfway through the video they show it on an egg timer. Why an egg timer—so the iPhone could shoot a 360 photo. Awesome.
There’s a couple common approaches to staying at the top of the digital overload issue.
This drink can be tough for those that aren’t used to the combination of Campari and gin. However I tend to think that people that try it usually order it regularly. It’s one of my favorite drinks year round. When I was in Montreal for a quick trip, I don’t think I saw Campari in one bar that I visited.
It should be noted that any device that encourages people to take photos that they wouldn’t have otherwise shot is good a thing.
Up until a couple weeks ago I had ignored instagram. I had my own system for shooting, uploading and sharing photos. I was using my iPhone less and my GF1 more. The biggest reason was that I was tired of the 3GS lens from my iPhone. My GF1 could shoot a x1000 times better + I didn’t have any images that needed to be immediately uploaded online.
When I wanted to share I just tweeted the image with decent results after I uploaded it to flickr. To get images from my iPhone to Flickr and Twitter I had to set up a specific email address. With that email address I would email an image from my iPhone to flickr that would automatically kick the title of image and a url to Twitter. It wasn’t hard to set up but it wasn’t exactly apparent either for those that never knew there was such a way to share via mobile. One other trigger with flickr was that anytime an image was uploaded it was also posted on my Facebook wall.
So a couple weeks ago I was having brunch with a friend and instagram came up. I pretty much dissed it because most of the images I had seen up till then looked the same. While the convo went on she described how it had changed how she takes photos, not because of how the filters work but because of how it enables her to interact and share with others. Since it had been a while since I had experimented with any mobile communication force I figured it was worth experimenting to see what I could learn.
Last Sunday morning it was pretty nice so I decided to shot both with my iPhone and instagram and compare it with my Lumix GF1 as I walked Madison down to Bowery from where I live. You can view the images at Comparing Instagram to the Lumix GF1 & Flickr Part 1. Much to my surprise a ton of different ideas about sharing and distribution came up as I pointed the different devices at buildings.
It doesn’t have to be complicated—I just choose to experiment with different channels. As I mentioned anything that is posted to flickr is automatically sent to my Facebook wall. Anything I email to flickr automatically is sent to Twitter. Anything I shoot with instagram is distributed within that ecosystem. If I don’t tweet or post the image to Flickr I can post the instagram image to my Facebook wall. All instagram images won’t reside on my Flickr stream. Flickr images never get posted to instagram. Just depends on how I want to push things.
What’s better, real time delivery or uploading at a non designated time? A person shoots with instagram, the image is almost immediately uploaded if the person has connectivity. With a normal camera it typically takes more time to upload it, and to a system that people they might know might not be checking as much.
Mobile vs Camera:
Sure, what ever camera a person has is the best camera, but what if the dpi is garbage? Trade off between immediacy and quality of image. If someone cares about about image quality they probably will cary something small as a GF1. The catch is that is near impossible to share live like a camera on a smart phone.
Small instagram images flow nice within its stream, enlarge them on a desktop, they might not look as nice. GF1 images look great at any size (for the most case).
Filters vs Natural:
This should speak for itself…
It is way easier to like something on a mobile device than a website.
Discovery of new people:
It hasn’t happened on instagram for me and I find it annoying that there’s no bio info of people I follow. I can find an infinite number of new people on Flickr and I don’t care if they follow me back after I follow them.
Now that I’m shooting with instagram I doubt that I’ll stop, though it isn’t going to stop me from using my GF1. Once I get the iPhone 5 all bets are off with the GF1. I’m assuming it will have the best mobile lens out there.
Quantity & Flow:
If I blasted a handful of photos from Flickr to Twitter it probably would seem annoying. I share the same set from instagram it probably is considered story telling. Having a camera forces some editing, have a pipe makes it easy to flow a lot though it also dilutes quality.
I thought it would be interesting to compare Instagram with some of my regular photo taking habits with the Lumix GF1 & Flickr. This morning was perfect for walking Madison so I took her down to Bowery. Below are the images taken within a couple minutes of each other with both my iPhone and GF1. In my next post I’ll talk about some of my observations and the benefits along with hindrances of both systems.
There were four themes that seemed to stick this week for me. With a lot of the news focused on Bin Laden this week I came across a lot of data visualizations related to that. I don’t think there’s a week that goes by that I don’t see some type examples that I want to save to remember. There was a number of items that were slightly miscellaneous that fit together under “stuff” theme. The last collection had to do with geography and what the maps information presented.
Antrepo used iconic metal oil cans to display their new font titled Public Gothic Family.
I approve of this use of type.
There’s a lot to like about this image. Strong type that matches the iconic mark, the silver reflecting off the red, and how the image is cropped all add up to make a great image.
DATA & WAR VISUALIZATIONS
Looking at how information spreads on Twitter, Socialflow describes how a single tweet spread quickly about Bin Laden’s death before it was announced. It was noted that Keith Urbahn didn’t have a huge following though the timing of his tweet along with some influential RT’s from his network spread things rapidly in realtime.
The NYT displays the emotional response of readers to the death of Bin Laden with a positive vs. reaction graph. Each pixel when moused over displays a quote of a reader.
A couple people trying to figure out what to read first of the Iraq War Logs decided to design something around the free text summary. That part of the logs allowed for first person accounts as opposed to technical information that isn’t as rich in detail. They go on in the post describing how they did it and interestingly enough what can’t be deduced from the image.
A very cool tool that folds up as a key ring. It contains a lot of things like being a screwdriver, wire stripper, pliers and most importantly a bottle opener among others.
There’s a collection of F! steering wheels from a number of different teams. Fascinating to compare all the different types of buttons, placement, information density and color of each. I also think it speaks about the driving philosophy of each team. BMW has a ton of text, Mercedes Benz has a slightly more rational order of buttons while Ferrai just feels fast with the button shapes.
Nice idea to extend the flight of a paper airplane.
I think the line speaks for itself.
A group of students used a theory called “sland biogeography” to predict where Bin Laden might be. The theory refers to basically, that a species on a large island is much less likely to go extinct following a catastrophic event than a species on a small one. Another concept was that Bin Laden was less likely to be any further than 300 km from his last sighting.
Amazing map of the Mississippi. It hurts my head thinking about how long it might have taken to create.
GestureTheory started in January 2011 as a team of two. We’ve been heads down working on some great projects and are ready to expand. Gesture Theory is looking for freelancers to help us with exciting new projects. Interested? Great – here is what we are looking for:
Gesture Theory has been pretty platform agnostic. We and our clients typically work in PHP, Ruby on Rails, or Python. We are looking for a backend developer that typically spends their spare time going to meetups and learning new things. If you are looking for challenging and interesting projects, Gesture Theory is the place for you.
Gesture Theory is working on some very exciting apps with more in the pipeline. If you relish getting new SDK releases and implementing new user experiences, shoot us a note. We are looking for developers that have published bug-free, polished apps and like to work on both iPhone and iPad apps. The ability and desire to prototype in HTML5 touch frameworks also a plus.
We’re looking for someone that is equally passionate about typography as they are with making a great experience for the person that will be using what they designed. Ideally you’re comfortable with a product design philosophy of being agile and willing to iterate when needed. Hopefully you also publish on a blog, shoot photos from your smartphone and spend your free time dreaming about stuff you want to design and make.
We are looking for people that can come to the table with original ideas and push the innovation envelope. We strive toward a collaborative culture where the best idea wins the prize. We typically work with startups, publishers, and other clients that have great ideas and interesting projects. Send us a note to jobs -at- gesturetheory.com if you or anyone else you know might be interested.
today is making up for the brutal week of gray weather
Watching my ipad this morning #walkingtoworktoday
Push & Pull typography on Grand St #walkingtoworktoday
sunrise over Manhattan
Primitivism on Crosby st #walkingtoworktoday
a couple group of eyes looking out the window #walkingtoworktoday
Rainy Empire State Building Tonight
Looking north on rainy NYC night
One Way Down Thompson and Prince this morning #walkingtoworktoday
#walkingtoworktoday by Forbes on 5th ave
ESB straight up from 34th #walkingtoworktoday
multiple profile views outside #walkingtoworktoday
Madison making her case for a treat before I start #walkingtoworktoday
Just a photo from the apt on a sunday
sweet ride for the film white collar that is about to start filming in front of @gesturetheory
inside Reuters #walkingtoworktoday
union square this morning #walkingtoworktoday
I’m pretty happy to pass along the news that Gesture Theory’s blog is now up. We’re tying the content of the blog to our Magazine that we sent out this afternoon. This is our first iteration and plan to add a couple more elements in the upcoming issues. Before we released the blog we felt that Gesture Theory needed to have a couple other functional social pieces working. We wanted start with Twitter to learn about the type of content we wanted to share, speak quickly and pass along links. Flickr was second so we could share images. Once we had those running for a while the blog gave us the opportunity to combine the best of those social features.
We built our main site around the idea that those social modules could pull in the newest info. Once the blog was ready we could drop an additional module while having the blog stand alone. With the blog completed we could also integrate Twitter and Flickr easily as they’ve been running for a while. And because the blog was ready we could send out the magazine that people had signed up for.
As with anything I post work wise, I’m curious to hear any thoughts that might make the product better.
This second edition of Link Drop Tech has a healthy serving of iPad and related news. There’s some visualization of data and a fascinating interview from some guys that were able to slow down the Chatroulette Porn Problem on their own service. Publishing is still trying to figure things out online. I’m surprised more people that publish a blog online haven’t gone the Kindle route yet. At the moment social and sharing means integrating Twitter—hopefully we can expand on that soon.
CREATIVE APPLICATIONS: Cascade [Processing]
Cascade is the latest project by NYTimes R&D department that allows precise analysis of the structures that underly sharing activity on the web. Initiated by Mark Hansen and working with Jer Thorp and Jake Porway (Data Scientist at the Times) the team spent the last 6 months building the tool to understand how information propagates through the social media space. While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.
CRUNCH GEAR: Conde Nast Taking A Breather On Tablet Editions Of Its Magazines
While Conde Nast is definitely in the front line here, I think they neglected to consider some aspects of the new platform. For one thing, tablets are at the moment primarily used for casual gaming, email, and light browsing. It’s just what they’re good for. Not a lot of storage and (on the iPad) sub-HD screens make media consumption secondary, and many other functions it performs are also done by smartphones, making many applications superfluous. Furthermore, people are still naturally attracted to the enormous volume of free content on the web, some of which they’d be paying for unnecessarily by subscribing to this or that (like the recent NY Times paywall).
TUAW: Some spiffy cases for your Square credit card reader
But that reader is tiny and easily lost, so what’s the best way to keep track of it? A special case, of course. Unpluggd has a few options for keychain cases built specifically to hold that little widget, from $10 up to the excellent case above for $25. Yes, it might seem a little strange to spend that much on a case for something that you essentially got for free. But if it helps you keep track of the reader and have it right there on hand when you need to take a big payment, it’ll be worth it, right?
THE NEXT WEB: Inside BBC.com and the international launch of the BBC iPlayer
Interestingly, the BBC’s experience matches our own here at The Next Web. Last April we unveiled a highly customisable, widget-based homepage loosely based on the BBC’s format. The problem was that less than 5% of our readers actually customised their pages and the code needed to run all that customisation that no-one was using was slowing page load times significantly. Over Christmas, we replaced it with a new design that put access to information ahead of giving readers choice and found that traffic noticeably increased as users could get to what they wanted easily from a home page that didn’t take an age to load.
TS3Cine Camera Shoots 720fps at 720p Resolution
These days, there are even cheap consumer cameras that can shoot high-speed video. However, the resolution loss in high speed mode is so abysmal that it pretty much prevents you from shooting the cool sort of slow-motion action shots you really wanted to capture in the first place. If you’ve got the budget, the TS3Cine camera can shoot not only at high speeds, but at high resolutions.
UX MAGAZINE: TEN GUIDELINES FOR QUANTITATIVE MEASUREMENT OF UX
Most UX designers use qualitative research—typically in the form of usability tests—to guide their decision-making. However, using quantitative data to measure user experience can be a very different proposition. Over the last two years our UX team at Vanguard has developed some tools and techniques to help us use quantitative data effectively. We’ve had some successes, we’ve had some failures, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and we’ve developed ten key guidelines that you might find useful.
FUTURE PERFECT: Forgiveness
One of the nuanced design features on an already exceptionally thought out product/service is the rubberised upper and lower casing. Beyond surviving drops, the texture and forgiveness in the surface supports wider a range of playing positions – wedged under the headrest, jammed above the rear-view mirror. A damage-free interior goes down well with our driver, Yasser.
GET FINCH: Design Is Not The Goal
We’ve seen a big shift in the presentation and discussion around content online. The user is being offered more control and power over the presentation in how they consume this content. Cameron Koczon refers to it as “Orbital Content.” Instead of a user being forced to find and read content in an environment potentially full of distracting ads and poor legibility, they can liberate it. The user can pull it into their orbit and mold it into a useful, custom collection, for them to consume within their preferred environment.
CHEZ MONCEF: To All the “Journalists” Who Wrote About the iPhone Tracking Issue
Another rebuttal comes from Will Clarke, who analyzed the data and concluded that “Apple is not storing the device’s location, it’s storing the location of the towers that the device is communicating with.”
CHRIS DIXON’S BLOG: EXPERIMENT: BLOG IN KINDLE BOOK FORM
So this weekend I thought I’d try an experiment. I took about 100 of my blog posts (the ones that I thought were most “evergreen”), bundled them as a PDF and submitted them to the Kindle Store. The Kindle submission process was surprisingly easy. You give your book a name and upload the PDF and then choose pricing. They force you to charge a minimum of $0.99. Also, strangely, if you charge less than $2.99, Amazon takes 70% of the revenue, but if you charge between $2.99-$10 they only keep 30%.
GIGAOM: Apple Reportedly Adjusts How Apps Are Ranked
Apple is apparently tweaking its App Store rankings to factor in more than pure download numbers, a welcome sign if true. It could be an attempt to mimic what Google’s done with the Android Market which now appears to take into account daily and monthly engagement data, so this seems to be a case of Apple playing catch-up.
TECHCHRUNCH: Q&A With Geoff Cook: How We Solved The Chatroulette Porn Problem
One early finding was that images with faces are 5 times less likely to contain nudity than images without faces. If you’ve ever used Chatroulette, this will make sense as the most common pornography encountered there contains a body part other than, ahem, the face. This is useful information because open-source facial recognition is relatively advanced while other-body-part detection is much less so. As a result, it is possible to use the presence of a face to limit some of the human review problem.
MACGASM: Ottawa hospital jumps into the future with 1,800 iPads
The Ottawa Hospital has ordered 1,800 iPads for their staff, and even managed to have a local company develop the software they’re going to be using on a day to day basis. The application’s primary objective is to get as much patient info into the clients hands while at the bedside. Doctors will have access to lab results, patient histories, and medication information in front of them.
TUAW: BET’s 106 & Park app impresses with promotion and social network integration
So what they decided to do was deep dive into how their viewers watched the show and interacted with each other. From that came a whole bunch of fascinating features, from some really surprising social media integration to even a “fame lottery,” which allows their on-air personalities to directly connect with app users.
Skyscrapers in a traditional style
I’m not a plate collector though I like how they took on an accepted norm and made it better. The style, material and format all speak to something kind of old. Yet because there’s buildings on the plates it feels kind of accepted.
These are truly one of a kind. I’m kind of curious to know the story behind these and who would actually have one of them made. Would the person wearing the ring be displaying their on teeth or someone else’s, and if the latter would it be those teeth be from someone they know or not?
Xbox 360 Bullet Buttons: Gun Controller, Literally.
This could be an art piece yet I think there’s a market for something like this in day to day life gaming. It speaks on a lot of levels in terms of what that controller’s main purpose is. Kind of sad.
Saw this image via a tweet from the person that took it. Impressive that the photo taker knew what a Byzantine physics equation looks like—here’s the text describing the image: “Top: Byzantine physics equations on a legal notepad. Left: poetry on a kindle. Right: marked up copy of Municipal Planning Officer’s sample exam. New York, this is why I love you.”
The weather continues to keep people on their toes here. While I’m not happy about all the rain and cold I’m pretty sure I’ll be complaing about the heat soon enough. In any case I’m pretty sure I saw that lightning strike at eye level if that image was taken last week.
Smart companies realize that having a voice that cuts through to your audience isn’t a matter of ‘look at me, look at me’. It’s a matter of politeness. While I think people are generally open minded and curious, I also don’t think they have the time or attention to learn about everything that clicks onto their radar. Putting on a show isn’t a matter of hoodwinking—it’s a matter of communication. —Ash Huang
I enjoyed reading this from someone that has lived on both coast’s.
SWINGING MODERN SOUNDS #29: The Museum of Broken Things
Who doesn’t like music? While I don’t really know that much about how it’s made I do appreciate the process that it takes to make it. So it was fascinating to read about a tool that some hate while other’s don’t.
British Spy Secrets Still Much Cooler Than American Spy Secrets
Reading stuff like this make me wonder what I’ll be reading about in a couple decades.
Pregnot: Toppenish High student fakes pregnancy as social test about stereotypes, rumors
I found this post via Joanne McNeil shared Google Reader. Amazing description of a first person experience.
Behind the Scenes: New Photography 2010: Alex Prager
I really enjoyed hearing about Alex Prager’s process and watching the varying degrees of discomfort from the interviewer.
Graphic design helps people make decisions. This is a given to designers. We don’t often think about how vital it becomes in an emergency situation. Visual information guides our thinking process, helps us assess personal risk and gain understanding so that we can make informed decisions; decisions which can have a profound impact on our lives. They can mean life or death. This article explores the vital importance of information design to the public and aid workers during the disasters in Japan.
About the author:
Peggy Cady is a graphic designer in Victoria, BC. She is a former national president of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) and a GDC Fellow.
Life, Death and Graphic Design:
The Critical Role of Information Design in Emergencies
By Peggy Cady CGD, FGDC
Download the PDF of this article at http://designnotes.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/life_death_design-low_res.pdf
We don’t often think about how graphic design helps us deal with our everyday decisions. We don’t realize how valuable it becomes in a real emergency because in that situation, generally, the only thing we are thinking about is survival. We look for warning signs and symbols: the skull and crossbones for lethal danger, the EXIT sign, the evacuation route, H for hospital, In case of Fire Break Glass, Toxic, High Voltage. Clear labeling is vital on medicines and poisons. Under extreme stress, we need easy to understand directions to a gathering spot and quick visuals on how to open the airplane emergency exit.
Visual information can guide our decision-making process, help us assess personal risk in dangerous situations and gain understanding so that we can make decisions; decisions which can have a profound impact on our lives and on the lives of others. They can mean life or death.
After receiving a message from a designer in Japan asking for assistance clarifying government and media information about radiation hazards, I felt moved to offer help. Images of the devastation in Japan made me want to take action. Donating to the Red Cross and relief groups was one option. I also found that I could do research that might contribute to the efforts in gathering and understanding information. While looking for answers to the designer’s questions and thinking about how to portray the information, I was struck by how important graphic design is in this situation and how its value is manifesting itself in the wealth of information graphics, diagrams, charts and images appearing on the web to help inform people about this life-threatening situation.
What I need to know right now is whether or not I will get cancer or possibly die if I go outside today. What are the risks? Is it safe for me to be here or do I need to evacuate my family from this area? Can I eat the produce, drink the milk? I can’t understand the information we are getting in the news.
In the wake of the ongoing nuclear disaster, citizens of Japan have been baffled by government-supplied information on radiation hazards. Information has been hard to get and difficult to understand. Officials are bogged down with the immensity of the crisis and the uncharted territory of dealing with a problem of this magnitude. There are few precedents to refer to and no one wants to trigger panic. This nuclear crisis and its scale present a new type of emergency with many unknowns, not just for Japan, but for the world. Lessons were learned from Chernobyl and the many other accidents at nuclear power plants around the world recorded since 1952, but this series of events is more complex. (see Information about nuclear accidents: http://www.atomicarchive.com/Reports/Japan/Accidents.shtml and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents)
References to radiation hazards are supplied to the public in varying terms which they don’t understand – sievert/year, millisievert/hour, microsievert/hour. There is data but no explanation. See the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology site where they supply graphs for some items, raw data for others. Here, there are reams of raw data to be interpreted and there is a great need for visual exposition.
The Institute for Information Design Japan reached out to the world community of designers and scientists via their Facebook D4J page, asking for visual explanations that could be posted to the news media and web, saying “Developments at the nuclear power stations are even more difficult to comprehend – we have few cues to help us relate the short-mid-long-term effects to the scale of urgency we use in our everyday judgments and decision-making.” They asked for explanation of various measurement units, radiation levels, radiation forecasts, when to evacuate, the effect of consumption of irradiated food. They asked for “visualizations that speak for themselves”…and here, we have the essence of graphic design.
Visualizations that speak for themselves;
design puts data into context
This is a life and death situation. People have to know how radiation is affecting their food, their environment and their personal safety. When the amount of radiation it takes to make you very ill and increase your lifetime risk of cancer by four percent is one sievert, you want to know what a sievert is and how many are out there in your neighbourhood over what period of time. If there is little or no danger, you want to know that, too.
There are so many different ways to measure and describe radiation – bequerels, rads, grays, sieverts (see Figure 2) – it is no wonder people are confused. The effect varies if the radiation is inhaled or ingested, how old the person is and the amount of background radiation in the area. The response to this crisis from designers, web programmers and scientists demonstrates the value of information graphics and their ability translate data and help people. Some examples follow. I’ve included screen shots for a quick visual reference. Click links and images to see the sites in detail.
The web and social media are making it possible for people to collaborate, interpret data and deliver information on the situation. Along with a wealth of crowd-sourced research provided on the D4J Facebook site, graphic representations are emerging on the offshoot, Japan Nuclear Emergency Facebook page. Spearheaded by photographer Scott Bryson, this group gathers data, articles and research, digging deep into the issues to help people follow the crisis as it unfolds.
Designers at ‘Information is Beautiful’ responded to the D4J plea with a graphic radiation dosage diagram. Here we can compare the effects of radiation at different levels and evaluate the danger.
A similar but more graphic diagram was made by gakuranman.com (Illuminiating Japan) with even better results. This site provides a wealth of visual illustrations and information about the earthquakes, the reactors and radiation.
The Russian site Rianovosti provided a diagram of the Effects of Radiation on the Human Body.
An urban site, alttokyo.com, displays a graph reporting radiation updates minute by minute in Tokyo. A reader says, “Thank you so much for setting up this website. I currently live in Tokyo and worry that we are not being informed by TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] the hourly/daily radiation levels in Tokyo. On this site, you are using uR/hr. What level/number is a normal level? Is 12 uR/hr the normal level?” [Normal levels are 10-15 uR/hr.]
MIT’s Technology Review reported, in an article titled Internet Activists Mobilize for Japan, “Within two hours of the Japanese earthquake, a version of Ushahidi, Web software that helps people share information during a crisis, had been created by Japanese volunteers working with the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Ushahidi consists of a Web server and other software that lets anyone send in information—via a cell phone and the Web—that is then displayed on a map. The site, dedicated to Japan, sinsai.info/ushahidi, is being used to pinpoint locations where people may be trapped, dangerous areas that should be avoided, and supplies of food and clean water.”
The BBC News site has clear graphic explanations of how the Fukushima nuclear reactor broke down, which help to us understand what actually is going on inside the reactor.
The Radiation Dose Chart, by Randall Munro, shows the effect of ionizing radiation doses from various sources, putting our daily contact with radiation into perspective, alleviating some worry.
YouTube Videos graphically warn us of the radiation flow in wind currents to help us understand and warn us about radiation traveling around the world. See Fukushima forecast shows Northwest
US under threat.
Designers help people make sense of data
Real time crowd-sourced radiation readings are now available on the web. This is an amazing phenomenon. There are even instructions on how to hook up a Geiger counter to a monitoring website. See rdtn.org –
“a collective voice helping others stay informed,” where people are photographing radiation readings from iPhones, geo tagging them and uploading the images to Flickr and Twitter. The Real time radiation level website uses “special web robots called STUBBY to track the radiation level in real time from various web resources.” MarianSteinbach’s blog hosts a radiation data dump called Japan Radiation Open Data. She is a “User Experience Designer and Information Visualization enthusiast.”
Crowd sourced radiation data is put to good use by interaction designer, Haiyan Zhang. Current radiation readings are collected from Geiger counters around the country to report radiation levels on a map of Japan. On her blog, Zhang explains her motivation and the design problems she worked through in creating her visualisation of radiation readings.
“These are crowd-source readings from numerous geiger counters hooked up to the Internet. …The readings come from sources such as local councils, motivated individuals and official readings from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). My aim with this map is to make the data easily readable and understandable, so people can very quickly get an overview of the radiation levels across Japan and are able to drill in to get further details per region. From a user experience point-of-view, I wanted the numbers to be at a glance, avoiding the extra clicks that these mashups usually ask of the user. So you see the readings highlighted in yellow on the map. The orange circles are coloured based on the severity of the reading (the darker the orange, the higher the reading). Clicking on these circles will also bring up more details about the reading (location, timestamp, millisievert).
The toughest part of this visualisation is really understanding what the numbers mean and what impact they have on human health. The first step to this process is standardising the units of measurement, as the crowd-sourced measurements and visualisations may use a number of representations. Units here are in µSv/h (or microsieverts) and we’ve been hearing CNN and NHK World refer to the unit Milisieverts (1 milisievert = 1000 microsieverts). I also urge other mappers out there to use the µSv/h unit, so we speak a common language.”
Target Map, Japan Radiation Maximum by Prefecture is another good site for checking radiation levels. It has an interactive map where you can click on an area and see if the radiation is at a dangerous level. This is a very clear, informative and easy to navigate site .
The non-profit International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Austria provides a visual summary of the daily status of reactors and a Fukushima contaminated water flow illustration).
The site Graphing Earthquake, Radiation and Water Data in Japan shows radiation levels over time in various areas, earthquakes, aftershocks, iodine-31 levels in water purifying plants and weather. “I made these [graphs] as quite a few people are getting confused with all the numbers floating around and to show in an easily viewable format the levels that are being stated. …The graphs will be updated at least twice a day depending on circumstances,” says Phillip Mills, who put the site together.
In an emergency situation we rely heavily on visual information to help make sense of the chaos around us. Skilled at translating unstructured information into clear messages, graphic designers are also experienced in varied techniques used to analyse and portray data in order to give it meaning. They consider the end user’s needs, do research, plan, problem solve, set objectives, test and evaluate. Working closely with government, planners, architects, behaviourists, psychologists and other specialists is part of the job. Designers shape complex ideas and information to communicate messages effectively in an appropriate format.
In times of emergency and disaster, graphic designers don’t provide the essentials of food, shelter and medicine, but information design is an invaluable asset to aid groups, governments, businesses and others who help people. Easily accessible signs, instructions, wayfinding systems, maps, charts, diagrams, interpretive graphics and websites can mean the difference between life and death.
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