Discussion Response 3 – Data Visualisation Journal Articles

Technology has developed significantly over the past century, and these advancements have also increased our capacity for collecting, storing and analysing data. In 1986 the average person would be exposed to 40 85-page newspapers each day, and by 2007 this number had increased to 147 newspapers each day (Krum, 2014). Communication designers have an important role to play in the translation of this vast quantity of data into clear, concise and visually appealing data visualisations and infographics.

Dur (2014) writes of the importance of ensuring that design students are taught how to collaborate with professionals from other disciplines in ways which will enable them to more actively discover, understand and interpret information. A well-designed data visualisation has the ability to reach and engage a wider audience, and can be used to persuade, motivate and activate people. The visualisation of information allows non-experts to identify patterns and connections, and it is the role of the designer to use design elements such as colour, texture, size and dimension to emphasise the key messages (Dur, 2014).

It is important that data visualisations are aesthetically pleasing, as this will affect people’s willingness to interact and engage with them (Quispel & Maes, 2014). Most data visualisations that are published in the mass media are quite simple, such as bar charts and pie charts, and these simple layouts can be understood very easily and quickly. However, if the goal is to engage and entrap the attention of a wider audience, then data visualisations should also be designed to be visually appealing, and should invite viewers to further explore and connect with the information (Dur, 2014).

References

Dur, B. (2014). Data Visualization and Infographics in Visual Communication Design Education at The Age of Information. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 3(5), 39-50. Retrieved from http://www.theartsjournal.org/index.php/site/article/view/460/267

Krum, R. (2014). Cool Infographics: Effective Communication with Data Visualization and Design. Indianapolis: John Wiley and Sons.

Quispel, A., & Maes, A. (2014). Would you prefer pie or cupcakes? Preferences for data visualization designs of professionals and laypeople in graphic design. Journal Of Visual Languages & Computing, 25(2), 107-116. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1045926X13000967

Task 2: Design Language


Image source: http://www.adaa.abudhabi.ae/En/FooterLogos/Visit%20Abu%20Dhabi.jpg

colorado_state_variations

Image source: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/colorado_state_variations.png

The purpose of a brand is to differentiate one product from its competitors, to provoke beliefs and emotions, and prompt behaviours in consumers (Morgan et al., 2011). A successful brand can instil a sense of value and performance to a product, and can be used to generate those social and emotional values for new products.

One of the most important components of a brand is its logo, as this provides a visual identifier for the product or company. A logo is a mark which conveys meaning about the product it represents. It must be simple enough that it can be easily reproduced, however the process of inventing the logo is often a lengthy one, as the logo gives form to “abstract values, concepts and attitudes in a single mark” (Glickfield, 2010, p. 27).

One city which has recently risen in prominence as a tourist destination and place of business is Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Prior to the launch of the Abu Dhabi brand in 2007, the city suffered from low global awareness in the majority of markets that the city was expanding into (Morgan et al., 2011). Every element of Abu Dhabi’s brand logo was carefully considered, the font and the logo itself communicate the city’s Arab background, the colours reflect the city’s heritage and landscape, and the shape of the logo is inspired by the iconic red sail of Abu Dhabi (Our Abu Dhabi, n. d.).

While the branding efforts of Abu Dhabi in 2007 were to create a new brand to increase global awareness, other places have chosen to rebrand themselves. In 2013 the state of Colorado launched an online campaign to rebrand the state called Making Colorado, where all residents of Colorado could submit their thoughts, opinions and creative ideas for review (Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, 2016).

The driving force behind the Making Colorado campaign was due to the fact that the existing logo, a red C surrounding a golden circle, was part of the state’s official flag and as a result it was part of the public domain and could be used for any purpose and in any way (Medina, 2013). The creation of a new logo for the state would allow the state to retain control over its use. The outcome of the Making Colorado campaign is a triangular green and white design which was inspired by the state’s alpine-themed license plates. The design includes a silhouette of a snowy mountain peak, and the state’s abbreviation “CO”. The new logo invokes images of snow-capped mountains and pine trees, and this message of the state’s natural beauty is also reinforced with the state’s new logo “It’s our nature”.

Both Abu Dhabi’s and Colorado’s new logos are very effective at communicating a lot of information in a single mark. Logo design is not just a matter of creating something which represents a product, but it also needs “to communicate an ethos rather than represent something figurative or literal” (Glickfield, 2010, p. 27). This can only be done with consultation with stakeholders, research into the history, demographics, and geographical attributes of the area, and a clear understanding of the message the tourism body or government wishes to portray.

References

Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. (2016). What Makes Colorado Colorado? State Launches Inclusive Branding Initiative. Retrieved from https://choosecolorado.com/what-makes-colorado-colorado-state-launches-inclusive-branding-initiative/

Glickfeld, E. (2010). On logophobia. Meanjin, 69(3), 26-32.

Medina, S. (2013). Rocky Start? Colorado Adopts A New State Logo, With A Few Bumps. Retrieved from https://www.fastcodesign.com/3017119/rocky-start-colorado-adopts-a-new-state-logo-with-a-few-bumps

Morgan, N., Pritchard, A., & Pride, R. (2011). Destination brands. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au.

Our Abu Dhabi. (n.d.). Our Brand. Retrieved from http://ourabudhabi.ae/en/our-brand.html.

CDI – Weeks 3 and 4 Thoughts

Weeks 3 and 4 of the trimester just flew by! I guess it didn’t help that I have spent 7 out of the 14 nights at the snow. I have fallen a little bit behind over the past fortnight, and haven’t had enough time to really explore the material and do the activities, other than the assessable ones. Hopefully I will have the time and the motivation to play catch up later on.

In Week 3 we studied design activism, which was interesting but nowhere near as interesting as I found the data visualisation topic. Design definitely has a role to play in activism as both the vehicle for communicating important messages, providing symbols for people to get behind and unite under, and also by making statements through art, posters, magazines, etc.

In Week 4 we studied design language, which was actually more about branding and logo design. I feel that there is a LOT more in this topic than what was covered in the learning materials and the readings. Part of the material was to watch the film Helvetica, which talks about the history of the font and how it’s used absolutely everywhere. It was quite interesting, and I decided that I do like Helvetica. Sometimes you want a font just to be there and not say anything, you know what I mean? I prefer clean fonts, and Helvetica is attractive in its simplicity and neutrality (is that a word? If not, I just made it one!).

Discussion Response 2 – Design Activism

Image source: http://inkahoots.com.au/project_files/50/38/54/22305438501_lg.jpg

The term “activism” is commonly used when referring to activities that demand social or political change, such as protests, marches, and petitions. In the world of design, activism takes on many different forms, including posters, videos, images, artworks, and even architecture. Design efforts can be considered to be activism if they identify an issue and encourage change in order to rectify the found problem, working on behalf of a neglected, excluded or disadvantaged group, and does so in a way which disrupts the norm through unorthodox methods (Thorpe, 2011, p. 6).

An example of design activism is Inkahoots Social Buttons installation in Caggara House in Mount Gravatt (Inkahoots, n.d.). Caggara House was developed by Brisbane Housing Company to provide affordable public housing to tenants over 55 years of age (The Senior, 2016). The Social Buttons installation consists of three large buttons which can be used to vote on social activities. The user selects their preferred activity from a given list by pressing the first button, then selects their preferences for where and when by pressing the second and third buttons. The votes are tallied each month and the most popular choice is sent to the residents by text message, and the housing organisation takes care of any transport requirements (Zuber, n.d.).

The Social Buttons meets the criteria for design activism as defined by Thorpe as it identifies the issue that older tenants may have difficulty making social connections, and it serves as a vehicle of change as it allows and encourages the tenants to attend social activities. The over-55 demographic is one which is often neglected by technological advances, and the installation provides a unique bridge between the tenants and the data collection and communication technology that lies behind the buttons.

Social Buttons from Inkahoots on Vimeo.

References

Inkahoots. (n.d.). Social Buttons / Inkahoots. Retrieved from http://inkahoots.com.au/projects/social-buttons/~details.

The Senior. (2016). Clever addition pushes all the right buttons. Retrieved from http://www.thesenior.com.au/lifestyle/clever-addition-pushes-all-the-right-buttons/.

Thorpe, A. (2011). Defining Design as Activism. Retrieved from http://designactivism.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Thorpe-definingdesignactivism.pdf.

Zuber, C. (n.d.). Inkahoots + interactivity: press the buttons. Retrieved from http://designonline.org.au/inkahoots-interactivity-press-the-buttons/.

Task 1: Data Visualisation

Data visualisation is the practice of transforming data into graphs, charts, maps, networks, videos, and other graphical forms. The application of data visualisation techniques can cause previously hidden patterns and trends to be identified within the data, and the resulting graphic should present the data in a more understandable and digestible format.

There are many different data visualisation techniques, and it’s important to choose a method which fits the data well and also adds meaning and truth to the data (Reas & McWilliams, 2010). The technique selected will depend on what the data is, how it’s organised, and what message the designer wishes to convey.

Data visualisation techniques can be roughly categorised based on the type of data and the interaction and distortion techniques used (Keim, 2002). Commonly used data types include one-dimensional data (such as time), two-dimensional data (such as maps), multi-dimensional data (such as data in related tables), text, hyperlinks, hierarchies and graphs. Some examples of interaction and distortion techniques include filtering, linking, projecting and zooming.

Perhaps one of the most useful features of data visualisation is its ability to allow a large amount of data to be analysed, explored, and manipulated without becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. Data is commonly explored by viewing it in a summarised form, then zooming into the areas of most interest, and then filtering out what’s irrelevant (Keim, 2002).

Data visualisation is a powerful tool when used well, however if the choice of technique does not match the data then it may fail to convey the intended message. Data which has a geographic nature is well represented by static and interactive maps, and data which has been recorded over time is effectively displayed using a time series visualisation, such as Aaron Koblin’s flight pattern animations (Koblin, n.d.). The correct application of data visualisation should result in a graphic which is easy to interpret, manipulate and analyse.

An excellent example of an interactive two-dimensional data visualisation is Nathan Yau’s Compare Worst and Best Commutes in America, which presents its data through an interactive map (Yau, 2015). Clicking on any county on the map will reveal how the average commute times across American counties compare to the chosen county. The commute time variable is split into five colour coded categories ranging from “much shorter” to “much longer”.

Nathan Yau’s interactive commute time map is a perfect example of why data visualisation provides a stronger representation of data than using tables or text. To represent the same amount of data in a table would require one column and one row per county, and it would be very difficult to compare the counties against each other without any interactive elements. Similarly, if the data was presented in text form, it would lose a lot of its meaning as it would be very difficult and tedious to read. The choice to use an interactive map to represent this set of data allows the end results to be easily and quickly understood, which makes the visualisation extremely effective.

References

Keim, D. (2002). Information visualization and visual data mining. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 7(1), 100-107.

Koblin, A. (n.d.). Aaron Koblin – Flight Paths. Retrieved July 22, 2017, from http://www.aaronkoblin.com/work/flightpatterns/index.html

Reas, C., & McWilliams, C. (2010). Form + code in design, art, and architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Yau, N. (2015). Compare worst and best commutes in America. Retrieved from http://flowingdata.com/2015/02/05/where-the-commute-is-worse-and-better-than-yours/

Data Visualisation Task

This week’s task is to track our movements in the house or the workplace over the course of the week, and then share the data visually with the group. I chose the house option, as I don’t really walk around my office very much at all. I must admit that I didn’t include every single movement, because quite often I’d go to a room for 10 seconds just to grab something… and also I didn’t want to spend the week attached to my spreadsheet so I only made my entries a few times a day and just worked off my memory of where I’d been.

I decided to use a website to produce my data visualisation, as I wasn’t happy with what MS Excel had to offer. Apparently it can do more than what I’ve used before… but I just couldn’t get it to work. I found a website – Raw Graphs – where you can paste in your data and then select your graph type, and then you can just embed the result. Easy!

CDI_Week02_Alluvial.png

The above graphic shows my movements within the house from Monday to Friday, with the left side being the room I was coming from, and the right side showing the room I was going to. The thickness of the line shows the number of times I made that particular transition. This is an “alluvial” diagram, which presents flows and allows correlations between categorical dimensions to be shown, visually linking to the number of elements sharing the same categories (definition from Raw Graphs).

CDI_Week02_CirclePacking.png

This one is a “Circle Packing” diagram, which shows nested circles and the size of the circles allows for easy visual comparisons to be made. The five outer circles represent a day each (the day label can be seen in the centre of the circle, some are quite hard to see), and the inner coloured circles represent the number of minutes within each room. I think this diagram would be more effective without the labels, but the website doesn’t output a legend and without that, it’s not clear what you’re looking at.

From this graph you can see that the day I spend the most time at home is Monday, because that’s my study day. Wednesday and Thursday are the smallest because both nights I went out and spent a few hours at the dog club. Friday has lots of small circles because I was doing chores and moving from room to room a lot.

CDI – Week 2 Thoughts

This week is all about data visualisation. It’s pretty neat stuff! The gist of it is taking a lot of data which would be super boring to look at in it’s raw form, shaping it into something meaningful and interesting, and presenting it in a pretty graphical form.

Our learning materials consisted of two Ted talks and a chapter from a textbook (Form + code in design, art and architecture by Reas & McWilliams, 2010).

The first Ted Talk was by Aaron Koblin, and he showed a few different examples of data visualisation work that he’d been involved in. I especially liked the crowd-sourcing aspect of his work – The Johnny Cash Project – where people could select one frame from a Johnny Cash video clip and hand draw it, then the video clip can be watched with all the hand drawn images in sequence. The individual styles of each submission makes the end product both chaotic and beautiful at the same time.

The second Ted Talk was by Hans Rosling, who took somewhat mundane statistics – the child mortality rate and the wealth of a country – and showed how these statistics affected each other over time in a number of different countries. It was interesting to compare the statistics over time, and presenting the data visually is really a lot more effective than just presenting tables and spreadsheets.

The reading material seemed like a lot at first, but it had lots of large images showing examples of data visualisation. Some were informative, but a lot of them were visually interesting but did not communicate the data clearly. Even after reading the captions under some of the images, I still had no idea what I was looking at. I think that many of these cases would have been more effective if I could interact with them, rather than just see a static picture of the output.

One of the activities to do this week is to track our movements inside the home or workplace over the course of a week, and present the data visually. The example shown has a plan of a house on it, with coloured lines showing the paths taken between the rooms. The lines are colour coded for AM and PM. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to present my data yet, so I am logging my movements around my house on a spreadsheet, keeping track of what time I am moving, what room I am coming from, what room I am going to, how long I spend in that room, and the reason I’m in that room. It’s turning out to be a lot more movements than originally expected! I’ll have to figure out how to present it so that I can upload it on Saturday. I can’t do a full week as I will be at the snow from Sunday.

Discussion Response 1: First Things First Manifesto and Beirut’s Response

The First Things First Manifesto (Emigre, 1999) reads like a call to arms for designers, urging them to become more socially conscious of the projects they choose to pursue. The manifesto shames design professionals for allowing the world to see only the marketing and advertising facets of the profession and encourages designers to use their talents and communication prowess to promote bigger and deeper world issues.

Michael Beirut’s 2007 response to the manifesto condemns the authors for their opinions, and argues that commercial work is just as important as work which pushes world issues, and that the real world is not as simple as the manifesto makes it out to be. Beirut sees design as more than just creating demand for commercial goods, and credits consumers with more free will and intelligence than the manifesto gives them credit for.

While I agree with the sentiment of the manifesto – that everyone should try to make the world a better place – I think it’s a idealistic viewpoint. Not every designer would have the financial freedom to only take on work which has a social impact, and not every designer would have these opportunities presented to them. Projects which have an important message to tell the world are not likely to have the same budget for design, marketing and advertising that a large corporation releasing a brand new soft drink would.

I believe that designers should take every job as an opportunity to improve the community, the retail environment, the target market, and so on. Everyday consumers deserve to have positive experiences, whether they are seeking information on cancer treatments, choosing a health insurance provider, or purchasing groceries at their local store. Designers must ensure they are providing the public with intelligently designed outputs which also serve their clients well, and should continually strive to better (not just beautify) the world.

References

Bierut, M. (2007). Ten footnotes to a manifesto. In M. Bierut (2007), 79 short essays on design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Emigre 51. (1999). First things first manifesto 2000. Retrieved from http://www.emigre.com/Editorial.php?sect=1&id=14.

CDI – Week 1 Thoughts

Here we go! Teaching Period 2 of 2017, my second trimester of my Bachelor of Design degree… my fourth (or maybe it’s equal fifth?) subject in this scary but exciting new world. I’m also taking Typography, and both subjects require me to keep a blog, so I’m multitasking and using this same blog for both. Let’s hope it doesn’t get confusing.

This week in Contemporary Design Issues is a general overview of the subject. There are a lot of issues, and many of them I haven’t heard of. This subject promises lots of reading and I really hope I keep on top of things, unlike Packaging last TP.

There are a lot of due dates in this subject. But yet there are less than Packaging. Every week I’m required to read something and then write a short response to it. This week is the First things first manifesto and a response penned by Michael Beirut in 2007. The manifesto itself is only a page, and the response is 3.5 pages, totally doable! The hard part will be condensing my thoughts into 200 words… that’s really not a lot of words!