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.


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!


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).


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.

Assessment 1 – What is a Superfood anyway?

So far I have two ideas for my final submission.

The first is to create the word “SUPER” out of blueberries. I really like the idea of using a superfood to spell the word super, and it’s food… see what I did there?! I’d lay the blueberries out on the bench and take the photo from above, or on a sheet of paper. I like the idea of using a green background with the dark blueberries, the colour contrast would work nicely. I could use directional light to create shadows to add some dimension.

The second idea is to get lots of junk food, like a mountain of French fries, and use them as my background. The photo would be edited to make the junk food sepia toned or just black and white, with the word “SUPER” spelled out in the foreground in healthy foods and still in colour. This could be done by taking two photos and editing them together (probably the easier option), or all in one. I wonder how much photo editing we are allowed to do.

Ooh, I just thought of a third idea… to re-create something like the POW image from my previous Assessment 1 post, all made out of food. Which brings me to the point of this post… what is a superfood anyway?

Wanjek (2015) writes that a superfood is a food, usually plant-based, which is nutritionally dense, but there is no set criteria for what makes a food super. Wanjek lists the following foods as being generally accepted superfoods – blueberries, kiwifruit, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, kale, sweet potato, squash, and fatty fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel).

And now a picture! Because I need to go and have a snack now.

Image source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/f4/86/17/f48617de3ec49548fe223c48fe44e2b3.jpg


Wanjek, C. (2015, May 11). What Are Superfoods? Retrieved July 18, 2017, from https://www.livescience.com/34693-superfoods.html

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.


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.

Assessment 1 – Word and Meaning – Initial Thoughts

This week we were required to pick a word and a material from a set list, and only one person could pick each combination. Luckily I was the third person to pick my combo, and I ended up picking “super” for my word, and “food” for my material.

Google defines super as follows:


And the two words together – superfood – also have their own meaning:


I keep gravitating towards the idea of a superhero theme for the word, but I’m not sure how to execute that. I’d imagine that a superhero themed font would have large, cartoony letters, like this image which I think is from Batman:

Image source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9a/9f/bc/9a9fbc2a1845d5cd7a38aae7787a208c–superhero-kids-superhero-party.jpg

Another idea is to make letters out of superfoods, such as blueberries, kale, etc, or use negative space created by the foods, like this:

Image source: https://res.cloudinary.com/twenty20/private_images/t_watermark-criss-cross-10/v1480653119000/photosp/465bd290-33d9-45a5-b9b1-30f809f42ba6/stock-photo-pink-love-candy-sugar-heart-sweet-romantic-social-like-465bd290-33d9-45a5-b9b1-30f809f42ba6.jpg

Typography – Week 1 Thoughts

So far this week I have made it through about half of the readings. There is quite a lot of text to read this week! Who knew that every part of a font had a special name?

This image is taken from Type Terms, which wasn’t part of the set reading but I really like how the information is presented.


I’ve also watched the set video, Stephen Fry’s The Machine That Made Us, which follows his quest to build a Guttenberg-style printing press. Very interesting stuff… it’s amazing how much effort had to go into this machine which ended up being hugely revolutionary for the sharing of knowledge.

I have looked ahead to our first assignment – Word and Meaning – and chosen by word combination – “Super” and “Food”. More thoughts on that in a separate blog post.

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!