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

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/.

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.