Big Data — Collecting and Visualising The Unseen

Module 2. Brief 1. Week 3.


Over the last two weeks, I have been looking at letterforms in relation to their location. The identity of a typefaces location can be made very clear after some investigation. This week I will be looking at the ‘simple complexity’ that is information design. 

I will be analysing designed information and the effectiveness of translating data into an image. Why do we do this? What good comes from this that cannot be done with image and text alone?

After my lecture from Harriet Ferguson, I will be asked what really does make a successful piece of information design? What aspects of an infographic makes it so useful in so many aspects of the modern age.

I will be analysing a piece of information design that I select from a selection given to me from this weeks challenge. I will have the opportunity to pick apart its characteristics, analyse its success and what makes it work and what is it lacking. By doing this I hope to gain a better insight into the form and function of information design and what it can be.

Research.

Information design plays such a big role in our digital age. The visualisation of information has been used for advertisement purposes, medical, research and data analysis, and all the way through to historical documentation. The world we see around us can be easily transferred to a tangible and memorialised piece that allows other people to depict and understand without the need to read heavy loads of documentation.

Screenshot 2020-02-22 at 12.13.35

Screenshot 2020-02-22 at 12.14.33Although not the first idea of what information design can be, Harriet Ferguson talks about tapestry and how they tell us about the world that the people who made them lived. For a time where literature was not formed. This meant that imagery had to work successfully to translate a message, story, or news. This goes all the way through to the “modern-day comic strip” that are churches stained glass windows. Another impossibly unrelated medium to the ‘infographic’, but after explanation, I can understand how it really does achieve the same outcome. Translating information, data, or story through to people by visualising it.  

Screenshot 2020-02-22 at 12.18.20

We come back once again to the well-recognised underground map. Something that has been developed over time but has changed very little. One of the greatest pieces of design in modern history that is ready, translates and understood by so many. Information design has changed very little from the days of tapestry. We still need to communicate with colours and shape to produce graphics that can be used through a multitude of languages. London has over 250 languages spoken in it so it must be able to communicate with every single person no matter if they speak English or not. Through the use of coloured lines to the symbols that tell us what accessibility there is at each stop. I believe the underground map is the clearest, developed, and successful piece of information design in history.

Response.

What makes a successful piece of information design?

There are so many opportunities for what an infographic can be, but ultimately ther is one simple definition.

The true definition of information design is the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters an efficient and effective understanding of the information. The term has come to be used for a specific area of graphic design related to displaying information effectively, rather than just attractively or for artistic expression.” Put simply, it is changing abstract data into visual forms.

I think there many key components to infographics, but the main points that I believe make up a successful information design are:

  • Simplicity, 
  • Translatable, 
  • Informative,
  • Appealing.

It cannot be over-designed. Overcomplicated. It should be as simple as possible but tell as much as possible from it. 

Challenge.

  1. Choose one of the five examples of information design provided.

  2. Analyse its effectiveness, the story revealed and the role both design theory and practice took in producing the work.

  3. Write a 500-word synopsis of your analysis in your research journal and include visual references and highlights of the piece examined.

  4. Create a piece of editorial design to portray your final synopsis and visual references.

Screenshot 2020-02-22 at 12.53.04United Micro Kingdoms (UmK) is a collation of four ‘super-shires’ that are said to be enhabited by:

  • Digitarians – Athoritatian & Right-wing
  • Bioliberals – Libertarian & Left-wing
  • Anarcho-evolutionists – Libertarian & Right-wing
  • Communo-nuclearists – Athoritatian & Left-wing

Screenshot 2020-02-22 at 08.54.34

An interactive map that depicts information with an image that is so black and white. Using a ‘key’ system that separates one area from another without the use of colour, shape has taken its place. They have turned this information into a website. A form of an infographic like no other, an interactive piece that allows for insight by hovering over the different sections to find more information. I have selected this piece, not for the information told, but for the form it uses to translate it. I measure its success using the four focal points I believe made a successful information design.

Appealing.

Positives – This piece is initially very appealing on the eye. A monochromatic design that is made up of unique icons that come together to produce a beautiful pattern. This information design could be seen purely as an illustration of the United Kingdom before realising its interactive nature.

Simplicity.

Positives – It is clean. Being a singular colour means that it seems decluttered and organised. It subconsciously makes it seem simplified as there is less for the brain to process. The user interface allows for easy use of the webpage. Being able to hover over the map to access the information when and if you need it.

Negatives – The icons mean very little to the information that it is attempting to translate. For better clarity the icons could directly illustrate the topic at hand, simplifying the process of translating the information explained to the user. 

As well as this the information would not work in any other form. As it is an interactive webpage, this content would not work as a poster or as a handout in the same way. It is restricted to this form.

Translatable.

Positives – The navigation can be understood by anyone that goes onto the webpage, as after scrolling and hovering, you quickly realise what you need to do to find out information.

Negatives – This information can be very difficult to conceive as the text uses industry-specific jargon. If the topic was explained in laymen terms. 

Informative.

Positives – The ability to hover over and areas to find out what the section means informs the user of the meaning of that icon. This gives the user the ability to understand the key clearly. 

Negatives – This information seems to be very complex and not understandable for those who do not have knowledge of the research before examining this information graphic.

Overall.

This information design is successful in its form. A unique way of translating information and data to a digital audience. Nevertheless, the information told is lacking in translatability, meaning this specific graphic is not as successful as originally anticipated. I can see this form working as a common form of infographic and wish to see more like this in the future. I would even like to experiment with this idea myself. 

Big Data - Infographic Analysis

Reflection.

This week has allowed me to investigate what I believe to be a successful information design. Previously not realising the extent of what this could be, I now know that these can take so many forms. More than just a graph or chart, an infographic can be anything from a tapestry to a website. They have been used throughout the years and are continued to be used to translate information by changing abstract data into visual forms. Through the research, I have conducted and the analysis of modern information design, I have found that there are four components that make up a successful information design. Simplicity, translatable, informative, and appealing. Without all four of these working in harmony these do not work.

References:

  1. United Micro-Kingdoms

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