Reflective Statement – Infromation Design Methodology

My interest in information design is motivated by its pedagogical power to explain, inform and educate  the mass on complex subjects in a way that captures attention and conveys the message in a clear and effective way through a combination of data, texts and visuals. My theme selection is generally guided by its interest to and usefulness for a targeted audience or to the society in general. The postings on my blog illustrate the evolution of my methodology.

Once the theme is selected and the objective is clear, I gather information from reliable sources such as governmental institutions, official reports, journals and other trustworthy sources and I classified them in main categories bearing in mind the objective of the work. Data and figures are thoroughly analysed with a view of preparing them for illustrative purpose. Text are studied, reformulated and simplified for ease of understanding by the targeted audience. My ethical values hold me to be truthful and not to conceal or distort data and information to fit a certain purpose when presenting them, as put forward by Edward Tufte’s in his book ‘Beautiful Evidence’.

I then move on to the design aspect. Usually there is more than one type of information to illustrate which can be in the form of data and texts. When it comes to data, I experiment with various ways to illustrate them in order to find the most efficient and creative way to catch the attention of the audience. When there are several figures which need to be stressed, I design them in a way that one does not get priority on the other and I seek creative ways to illustrate them such that they obtain equal importance through historical work like that of Florence Nightingale, contemporary ones like Charles Minard and David McCandless creative avenues in data illustration.

With the categorised written information to be included in the artifact, I design graphics such as pictograms or other type of illustration to enhance the information for the audience to promptly grasp the information. I would draw my inspiration from Otto Neurath’s visual language system called Isotype and Otl Aicher’s pictograms that transcends the language barrier.

At this stage, I normally test the focal part of my work that is supposed to attract the attention by getting the feedback from a cross section of the audience.

I then bring all the elements together, determine all the size with respect to the focal and lateral parts so that the audience gets the central message, is appealed to read through the artifact fluidly and easily and retains the vital part that would trigger a change in attitude.

Finally the correct mood has to be set through the right choice of colour combinations .

My blog entries have helped me in deepening my knowledge in information design and to develop an appropriate methodology to proceed in my area of study. As we are now in the digital era, and the volume of information that are circulated is keeping on increasing at a delusional rate, thus, there is much more to explore in the area of information design which I will do through my blog.

Contemporary Information Design

Information is Beautiful and The Visual Miscellaneum by David McCandless is a good source of inspiration as it contains his work of contemporary information design. McCandless has illustrated endless ways to display data without using conventional charts and making the data more visual and easier to understand.  Below are a few examples

disease_fatalities_550

Available at http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2009/fatal-infection/

The chart shows the fatality rates for well known diseases. It can be seen that the illustration is visually appealing. The size of the circles varies with the percentage rates to display each disease. But the size of the circles are not proportional to the data.

McCandless comparison

I have reworked the chart with the correct size for the circles. I have kept the red circle to its original size and from it I have recalculated the size of the remaining circles. When the two illustrations are compared the difference is clearly visible. If I would have kept the small circle to its original size and recalculated the remaining based on it, the size of the largest circle would have been 1200mm in diameter. Maybe because of this reason McCandless has chosen to do it that way.

 

955_coloursculture

The illustration shows the colours in the cultures around the world. There are ten culture origins with 84 variables. For example, B8 is purple in colour, it means that purple is the colour for celebration in the Japanese culture.

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McCandless, David (2010) Information is Beautiful, London: Collins

McCandless, David (2010) Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia, London: Harper Design

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Colour in Information Design

« The eye is exquisitely sensitive to patterns in variations in color, shape and pattern. It loves them, and it calls them beautiful. It’s the language of the eye. If you combine the language of the eye with the language of the mind, which is about words and numbers and concepts, you start speaking two languages simultaneously, each enhancing the other. So, you have the eye, and then you drop in the concepts. And that whole thing — it’s two languages both working at the same time. »

 David McCandless, TED Global presentation, 2010

The quote from David McCandless makes a lot of sense as nowadays we are overloaded with too much of information. In order to treat all these information so that we can digest it, one solution could be information design or information visualization. It is the transformation of information into image rather than texts. The use of simple chart can show pattern that could have remained invisible.

book_billion

Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8381597.stm

This infographics was designed by David McCandless representing the earnings and spendings of the USA. Each rectangular shape represents sector in the US economy. The rectangles have been colour coded to ease comparison, for example blue represents the earning. Thus, these figures have more meaning when grouped together and displayed graphically rather than just listing them and are easier to find correlations.

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McCandless, David (2010) Information is Beautiful, London: Collins

McCandless, David (2010) Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia, London: Harper Design

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Data Display

“Above all else show the data.”

Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Data is the most important element in information design. When designing an infographic, the key element is to display the data or information in the most efficient manner for the viewer to clearly interpret and understand the contents.

Data

In his book Beautuful Evidence, Tufte shows the importance of displaying the data correctly without interfering the visual pattern and most importantly not omitting any information. Three charts are shown above. The original chart was taken from the classic book The Element of Graphing Data by William Cleveland. The first graph shows the data points with their respective label. The trend in the data is interfered by the label which is not correct. In the second graph, all the labels have been removed and the relation between the point can be interpreted but cannot be identified which is also wrong. In the third graph colour of the data point has been changed to red and the label is written with smaller type. In this graph the relationship between the points can be easily interpreted together with their label without sacrificing any element.

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Tufte, Edward (2006) Beautiful Evidence, Connecticut: Graphics Press LLC.

Tufte, Edward (2001) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Connecticut: Graphics Press LLC.

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Ethical Responsibility

Making an evidence presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus consuming a presentation is also an intellectual and a moral activity.

Edward Tufte, Beautiful Evidence

This quote encourages me to assume ethical responsibility when using data to convey a specific message through information. Sometimes, data are misrepresented and can be done on purpose or just by a honest mistake. When it is done on purpose, it is to distort the data and to show something else. If someone wants to prove an argument, he may reach for the first bit of evidence but when closely examined can be very little supportive.

Below is a good example of misrepresentation of data by Nathan Yau:

Bush-cuts-625x461

Available at: http://flowingdata.com/2012/08/06/fox-news-continues-charting-excellence/

Fox News used this chart to show the change in the top tax rate if the Bush tax cuts expire. They show the difference between now and for 2013. The height of the 2013 bar is around five times higher. But it is not the case. When the chart is carefully examined, the vertical axis starts at 34 not at zero. The first thing we do when we look at a bar chart is to compare the height of the bars, thus it is misrepresentation of data.

Fox-chart-corrected

Available at: http://flowingdata.com/2012/08/06/fox-news-continues-charting-excellence/

When the bar chart is done properly, with the vertical axis starting at zero, it can be seen that the difference between the two is not 5 times but only 4.6%.

Data can also be misrepresented if they are partly chosen from a whole set of data and therefore the outcome is completely distorted.

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Tufte, Edward (2006) Beautiful Evidence, Connecticut: Graphics Press LLC.

Yau, Nathan (2012) Visualize This: The Flowing Data Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics, Indiana: Wiley Publishing.

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Information Age

“Data is the new oil!”

Clive Humby, ANA Senior marketer’s summit, 2006

Data is everywhere. We live today in a digital world. Many of our day to day actions involve data transfer and we leave digital print behind us unconsciously. Today information sharing has become a usual feature with Facebook, Twitter etc. These data we leave behind are valuable information by providing insight of consumer behavior, giving away personal information among others. IBM estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes are being created every day and that 90% of the world’s stock of data is less than two years old.

big-data-infographic

Available at http://thumbnails.visually.netdna-cdn.com/big-data-infographic_504f4d2f5bd2f.jpg

The infographic shows amount of data that have been shared and a glimpse on the future. The IP traffic will multiply by four and nearly 3 billion people will be online by 2015. This is how data is considered as the new oil.

On the other hand, David McCandless in his presentation at the TED Global presentation he modified this quote and changed it to “Data is the new soil” as data is available in unbelievable large amount and it is fertile soil to exploit. These data can be extracted and turn it into useful and meaningful information.

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Burnison, Gary (2012) If Data Is The New Oil, We Should Be Wary Of It. Availabe at http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680949/if-data-is-the-new-oil-we-should-be-wary-of-it [accessed 02 December 2012]

Hawn, Matthew (2012) If data is the new oil, don’t end up being BP. Available at http://gigaom.com/europe/if-data-is-the-new-oil-dont-end-up-being-bp/ [accessed on 22 November 2012]

Moorhead, Patrick (2011) Why Your Personal Data Is The New Oil. Available at http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/personal-data-oil/230932/ [accessed on 17 November 2012]

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Final Artefact – Diabetes Infographic

Diabetes infographics

All information is arranged in orderly manner with an easy flow in the Diabetes infographic. As it can be seen the main argument, Mauritius is classified third, is the main focus of the artwork. It is to sensitise the general public that it is the concern of everyone and we have to act now to erase that fact. On the following page, I have changed the background colour to dark red as it is an alert colour and it accentuates the gravity of the problem.

Diabetes infographic

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