information design

Elections and Visual Conventions

The Iowa Caucuses have come and gone, and as we prepare for New Hampshire and the remainder, we have some time to reflect on the visual dynamics of television news coverage of elections. Red and Blue states once had their debut to a national audience, and perhaps we’re on the threshold of a new visual convention.

Screenshot of Anderson Cooper's show, featuring magical 3-D pie chart


Tufte course in Austin, December 10–11

Edward Tufte book covers

Information design guru Edward Tufte will be offering his one-day course “Presenting Data and Information” in Austin on Monday, December 10, and Tuesday, December 11. Here’s the list of course topics from Tufte’s website:

• fundamental strategies of information design
• evaluating evidence used in presentations
• statistical data: tables, graphics, and semi-graphics
• business, scientific, legal, financial presentations
• complexity and clarity
• effective presentations: on paper and in person
• use of video, overheads, computers, and handouts
• multi-media, internet, and websites
• credibility of presentations
• design of information displays in public spaces
• animation and scientific visualizations
• design of computer interfaces and manuals

Registration includes copies of Tufte’s four books, and there is a generous discount for students (it’s basically the cost of the books).

Wikipediavision: Visualizing anonymous edits to Wikipedia

screen grab of Wikipedia vision

László Kozma, a grad-student at the Helsinki University of Technology, has created Wikipediavision a mashup of Wikipedia edits and Google maps reminiscent of Twittervision and Flickrvision.

Making type taste good: Typographics

This short film by Boca and Ryan Uhrich provides an introduction to typography while illustrating some of the possibilities of typographic videos.

Visualizing time

Visualizing Time: sequence image

Here’s a great collection of freehand drawings where the artists were asked to visualize time. The individual images are usually witty statements about their authors’ views of time.

Wolrd Freedom Atlas

The World Freedom Atlas gathers a number of interesting datasets related to world politics and human rights and converts them into a dynamic map display. Interestingly, the visual display helps to foreground the rhetorical choices made by the authors of those datasets. For instance, the map below displays a country’s governmental structure, ranging from a parliamentary democracy (white) to monarchic dictatorship (dark blue) (Cheibub and Gandhi, 2004). Notice that the U.S., a presidential democracy, falls in the middle of the classification scheme, closer to the dictatorships than Canada and Australia, which are both white, as well as Russia, which is a light teal.

world map showing Cheibub and Gandhi's regime institutions

via Information Aesthetics

PikiWiki: Drag and drop collaboration

PikiWiki is a free wiki service that adds drag and drop functionality to collaboratively-edited pages. If you are planning on using a wiki in your visual rhetoric class, PikiWiki might be a good option.

Visual Search for Wikipedia

The good folks over at Information Aesthetics recently posted a link to Wiki Mind Map. The site provides a mind-map-style outline of topics in Wikipedia.

Screenshot of search for visual rhetoric from

Right now the site appears to be able to search the German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, and Indonesian versions of the encyclopedia. It can also search, which appears to be some sort of German dictionary (perhaps a German-speaker can help out here).

Visual interfaces reinforce cultural stereotypes

On Monday, the BBC reported on a “six-month research project” that revealed that “MySpace users tend to get a job after finishing high school rather than continue their education” while Facebook users “come from wealthier homes and are more likely to attend college.” In a Tuesday blog post, Clay Spinuzzi pointed out that the research project in question was not intended to be taken as scholarly research. While it is generally a good idea to take any BBC report on science with a Gibraltar-sized grain of salt, one should ask, why did so many others accept these results (Clay lists SmartMobs and BoingBoing as posting favorable comments)? I think the answer has more than a little to do with the visual aesthetics of the two sites.

Visual literacy, meet information literacy

Trinity College Library, Dublin

Libraries: They aren’t just for reading anymore

Meghan Sitar of the University of Texas Library System forwarded a link to the virtual poster session at the 2007 American Library Association conference. The title of the session is “Eye to I: Visual Literacy Meets Information Literacy.”

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