Monday, February 26, 2007

Chapters 5 and 6 were, for me, a lot of repetition (Pardon the pun) from many other articles and lectures that I've heard, but it was also quite interesting to read about because it is so much in human nature to do these things unconciously without having to think about it. I apprecated seeing the examples that the book provided about parallelism and I particularly enjoyed the example of depicting the 3D cubes as a series of numbers that essentially make up that cube in the opposing panel. The Examples helped in defining what you could use parallelism for and how to approach design by using it. Chapter 6 spoke mostly on repitition and was like chapter 5. Repetition is a very helpful tool to use in design as it makes it easier for us to compare things by basing it off of objects that look similar to each other. Most of the examples provided in the chapter were things that would be common illustrations in instructional guides, which made sense. You never realize how much repitition is happening in an image until you look at it carefully and take notice of it. For the most part your brain does the work without you having to notice. As designers it is especially important to notice it and use it to our advantage.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

One of these things is not like the others...

Mr. Tufte’s chapter on parallelism, comprehension and retention made a lot of sense to me, and served to reinforce what I already knew about the way we, as human beings, learn. When I was twenty-three I spent a summer teaching reading skills through a private school. My students ranged in age from four years old (reading readiness) through adult (speed reading, strategies for better reading retention). Altogether I learned the curriculum for seven different class levels. Though the materials differed, and the techniques, one thing that remained consistent throughout was the method of delivering the information: organization and repetition. At the beginning of each class period I would explain what we would cover that day, and then relate it back to what we had already learned. I would then return to the present lesson in more detail. Each new idea was explained in terms of how it related back to the broader concept. At the end of class I again reiterated everything that had been covered during our time together. What I learned from this uber-structured teaching method was that by defining the context for each new piece of information, the minutia became much easier for my students to understand and retain. It comes as no surprise that this holds true for visual information as well, as Mr. Tufte discusses in Chapter 5. Creating a well-defined structure for the information being presented allows the designer to empower their audience with the necessary parameters to evaluate new data, whether or not the data replicates or deviates, increases, decreases, or ceases.
Chapter 6 was interesting. Using a baseline similarity to highlight variations reminded me of a type of visual puzzle that was around when I was a child. Two almost identical drawings appear side by side. The idea is to spot the differences between the two: stripes instead of polka dots, buckles instead of bows, a spoon where there had been a fork. Drawing #1 is the control. Without it, the variations in Drawing #2 are meaningless. The details that remain constant serve to highlight the differences, and together the two drawings are much more interesting than either one would be on it’s own because searching for “same” and “different” is intriguing. The same concept, when used to express other visual information, is compelling because it engages our analytical, puzzle-loving intellects.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Design Accurately?

At first, when I was reading chapter one I was thinking to myself who came up with the concept of designing maps in proportions. But I guess as humans we tend to define everything around us and it wasn't just satisfactory for us to have maps rather we seeked for a way to to depict it in relation to reality. nonetheless the idea of mapping a 3D into a 2D plane almost serves as a normality to us today. However, as GD students in this age we have so much technology out there to convert our ideas into reality. And this got me thinking into how I could represent my classification into 3D. Would it have a certain set of structure that it would follow or would it just be too obvious. Would it be more effective to have a 3D model or a pocket sized 2D literature with some pictures. As a conclusion I think that it is the idea or the flow of information which is the most important. Although I do agree that there maybe more effective ways of conveying an idea or information but as information designers we are more than obligated to find the most efficient way to reach the masses be it depicting it as a 2D or a 3D.
I found the content of chapter 3 to be more interesting. I asked my self if propaganda and magic had anything common to them. I think we tend to think again as our previous reading that as long as it's in an authoritative format we tend to believe it. This is probably because we have no means of verifying the information.....or so we think. Once again every individual has their own way of understanding matters. Although we may get a general idea we have different emotions or ideas that come to us. So, I see this as a challenge to us (information designers) in validating what we are communicating no matter how true or flase it maybe. The challenge lies in convincing the masses or maybe even leaving them doubtful so that they attempt to seek the truth. I say all of our designs should be like a subway map........nobody thinks twice.

Monday, February 5, 2007


So far I have been enjoying Mr. Tufte's world of information design. Chapter 1 was especially enlightening: before I read it, I had never really thought about the evolution of information design, nor had I paid much attention to three-dimensional representations of information a' la storm analysis. I do think, though, that Tufte is a little hard on the folks at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. After all, they created this videotape (!) in 1990, and even seven years later, when Tufte's book was published, quite a bit had changed in the world of technology. Which is not to say that the missing metrics are necessarily excusable, just that the movie itself represents a leap forward, and should be cut a little slack. I was also quite interested in the sly ways in which information can be manipulated. This is not a new concept, but even so, I was left with a lot to mentally chew over.

Chapter 3 was engrossing both for its content in and of itself, and also for the fact that I would not have thought to compare illustrations for magic tricks to what, it my mind, is the fairly dry world of information design. (My views on this have no doubt been unconsciously shaped by the limits of Microsoft Office) Now that my horizons have been broadened through both Ch.1 and Ch. 3, with my thoughts awash with opportunities for showmanship and misdirection, I find that I have even more ideas regarding how I might frame my information for this semester's projects.

Tufte Ch1&3 response

In chapter one Tufte examines three techniques for visually depicting quantities: direct labels, encoding, and self-representing scales. Also examined is interpreting 3-dimensional information to a 2-dimensional plane: the paper, computer screen, etc. This is accomplished effectively through perspective and motion. Something that results in disinformation design is inaccurate usage of scaling. In information design, if you are using scale you should make it apparent to the viewer and use accurately so as not to distort information. In our case we are to present information in such a way so that even if it is untrue it appears to be truthful and accurate through the proper usage of format appropriation. The usage of commonly accepted to be credible formats to display our information such as graphs, maps, charts, etc. will allow for the realization of this goal.

In chapter three of the reading Tufte explores how illusion allows for the belief of false or hyped up data. Use illusion to "regulate optical information available to the viewer" to do this use disguise/suppression of context and attention control/prevent reflective analysis. I think in our project we use the credible format to emphasize the viewer's attention to how credible all our information looks to distract the viewer from how inaccurate/false/exaggerated our information truly is. The chapter says that disinformation design can be achieved through the method of display and/or the actual data ("thoughtful/technically well executed designs may skillfully present false information") itself.

Design in general:
bad design=disinformation design="the triumph of decoration over information"-Paul Rand

wonder vs. knowledge

Humankind floats between two aspects - knowledge and lack of knowledge. On one hand, a collection of knowledge from various sciences, laws, and history gives us many difinitions of what is real and what is not. On the other hand, much of collected knowledge is only theoretical, thus it leaves room for wonder. Wonder can be something that does not follow established rules or follows other set of rules that have yet been undiscovered.
The book talks about different wondrous things that look magical only in realm of physical space. I found author's comment on impossibility of expressing magic in still-land and video-land very interesting. It is very true that for something to be felt as magical and unbelievable a person needs to perceive it in full spectrum. Partial dimensions don't do the trick.
Graphs, images, charts, and scales however help people make sense of the world. It is a way of attaining knowledge without having to see things with own eyes. It allows to picture things and compare them to familiar measurements. In this case a person can have a good understanding about what that "thing" is, provided graphs, charts, etc. were calculated and presented properly.

Data & Diagrams

This reading was more helpful to me and got my mind thinking more about how I can represent the data I collect for this project. I did think that some of the explanations got a little wordy, but I liked the quote on page 26 that says, "Although we often hear that data speak for themselves, their voices can be soft and sly." One must be careful in how he/she represents information, choosing to tell the truth or manipulate it somehow and give the audience an illusion. One can get a better sense of scale/size if an image is representational and is depicted in its actual surroundings, not cropped to fit just the piece itself. Having spatial depth can really get the viewer involved in a piece, rather than being purely 2-D. The chapter on magic showed the power that diagrams can hold. Animating words with use of variations on text/font has a great effect, like the word "GONE" in the disappearing water glass picture. I was surprised at how many aspects to an image can signal motion. I see it all the time in the informational design that I see every day, but reading about many at one time in this chapter really got me thinking about representation and how often we DO see it. Varying angles, ghosting multiple images, and dotted/dashed lines can signal motion very well. As I was looking at the labels for the Automaton Chess Player, I was reminded of house and apartment layouts--how one must collect information about the built-in aspects to every room and scale it down to represent something that someone looks at quickly and decides, "Hey I'm going to check out this place. It has a neat layout." I think a house/apt. layout would have been a nice addition to the diagrams I read about.


Reading and looking at the visuals in these two chapters really help me visualize my project. Before I read any of this, I was having a hard time coming up with sketches that would help illustrate my ideas. My project is more about content and research rather than visual. History of Languages is not an easy task to chart, but from these chapters, they help me understand that my project doesn’t have to be boring to look at. One example I like is Herbert Matter, Thirteen Photographs because even it is just a bar graph, it gives out a visual appeals. This graph inspires many of my sketches, though the concepts are different.

From chapter one, I have collected a lot of information because there are so much and too many to remember. But from the first page the visual techniques that are in sync with my project are to direct labels, encodings, and self-representing scales elements that would help my visuals.

And in chapter three, all the chart and visual of magic tricks seem so simple and easy to follow (though they might not be when come to actually trying it). But the simplicity really appeals to me as in the Distraction Display because in just three panels they explain everything you need to know. This idea gives me more ideas visually of how to illustrate my ideas, but I only wish my project is that simple.

A Response from Nathan S.

Chapter 1 of Tufte’s book examines the relationship of information is presented relative to what the information really is. One of the most telling examples Tufte gives is how insignificant giant works of art are portrayed in art history books. The Roy Lichtenstein painting in the book has much more importance when we see ‘lil Roy on his step ladder at the very bottom. And how cool was the little flap covering him up? In regards to Tufte’s examination of the severe storm system, I feel that Tufte’s reinterpretation is valid, but a little preachy and unnecessary. It’s not that he didn’t do a good job with it; it’s just that it is something you only need to see once to get. And being that it is part of a video, the stills don’t really do it justice.

I enjoyed chapter 3 because as a kid, I checked out every book on magic tricks our local library had. I would spend hours just looking at the diagrams so I could understand how to do the tricks and oddly enough, I had no intention of ever performing them. I just wanted the information to see how they were done. Tuftes goes farther with this notion by examining how effective the diagrams are in giving the information. The little arrows the show motion, the ghosting of fingers behind objects, and the step by step instructions try to give as much information as they can without being overbearing. I remember seeing magic books with lengthy paragraphs next to each step and I am glad Tufte acknowledges how unnecessary they are. Keep it short and sweet so the budding magicians can run out and perform their tricks; or not.

Tufte's intriguing analysis

Throughout Chapter 1: Images & Quantities Tufte discusses how maps can be misleading if not represented correctly and accurately. When transferring actual sizes of 3D objects onto paper, a 2d surface, one needs to maintain a consistent relative scale or else misrepresentation comes into play. This chapter reminded me of art history books in which all artworks are scaled down to size so as to fit into the book, but if you actually went to a museum to see an artwork you quickly realize how hard it is to accurately interpret those images in books. Therefore, it is crucial to describe images, displayed in books, as accurately as possible, so as to not misguide the viewer from the real size of the images.

Secondly, in Chapter 3: Explaining Magic Tufte uses magic as an example for describing disinformation design, which in essence is described as providing misleading information. In relation to magic, it means to create illusions. I thought it was crazy how even though this chapter gave a detailed description of how certain magic tricks work I still could not go out and perform any of them myself. Even though it revealed certain illusions that magicians use to stun their audience, I still would be amazed if I saw it performed. Just as Tufte described, the drawings don't do justice to the actual stunt being performed.

Tufte also said that tricks are actually simplistic but are made to look complicated. I disagree with that because magicians need to remember certain techniques, depending on the trick at hand, in order to make the trick look believable. Also, timing is crucial. Magicians need to practice, practice, practice otherwise they might reveal the wrong information to their audience and spoil the trick. They also need to know how much information they should reveal to the audience without giving away the surprise. In conclusion, a lot is placed on the magician's plate when it comes to performing tricks accurately and effectively. Magic is a complex thing and the smallest slip could cost the magician the satisfaction of amazing their audience.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Response Tufte Ch. 1, Ch3

After reading the assigned test the assignment just keeps getting clearer and clearer. I am finding all the readings helpful and aiding my ideas for my project. Looking at the diagrams I am finding that the presentation, not necessarily the content, is very important. Many of the diagrams show things in a very convincing manner, yet if you look deeper you see that some of them are utter nonsense. It's back to the challenging authority. In magic, you convince the viewer by distracting them from the truth and in our projects we aim to create a system of authority by using standard means, but they aren't true and it tricks the user to question all forms of authority.

It all makes me think people who are considered authorities in scientific communities. Honestly, if I went and listened to a lecture of some authoritative figure on a topic I had never heard of and probably could never understand, he/she could probably say anything and I would believe it. That's how much trust we put in these people. I mean when is the last time a car repair man said "You've got a unicorn in you exhaust and its been jumping around poking holes everywhere... it's gonna be $500 bucks to fix it." I know that's a little extreme, but allot of people would just nod and pay because they want a working car and they know nothing about auto repair. I think allot of people just nod to authority because they that what society tells them to do. I think it is going to be exciting to challenge that authority in this project.

Enough of my rant. The reading was very helpful. Many of the illustrations have given me ideas on how to display my work, not only in 2D but 3D as well. I just hope I can pull it off exactly what I want in one semester. :)

Intriguingly Confused

What is truly being said within the Tufte text?

Pictures, maps, tables, typography analysis, paintings, drawings, graphs, and instructions. All of these topics are rolled together into one big pile of information. At first, the readings seemed to overwhelm my mind; I was bombarded with information, I was confused by content, but then I began to realize that this is the nature of the text. The content is ordered to make the reader think, and to create a confusion that will result in an understanding.

I was most intrigued by the diagrams and instructions within chapter 3. Since I was a child I have constantly been interested in magic and how it is achieved. The diagrams became a way for me to relate to the chapter more deeply. I believe that diagrams are a key factor in some classification topics. This has also made me conscious of possibly including some sort of diagrams within my classification project. I believe that Tufte has created a text that is confusing, but I believe that the purpose of the book is to make readers think and understand a deeper meaning.


"...if someone is willing to do the work." (p71)

They are representations. Representations = portrayal

Has anybody tried to use the campus map of SCSU? Now that's a misrepresentation and it is infact inaccurate as well. I think there is no right or the wrong way to represent information, but there are ways that we can make it work, and then ways that don't work. We try to adapt ourselves into a system that has been created to "portray" a real system. For some it works, for some it doesn't. That is why some people find it easy to navigate through some complex website, whereas some people just can't.

Today is the generation of step-by-step instructed DoItYourself generation. If you get a furniture from IKEA or even Walmart, it has visual representations and instructions on how to assemble a piece of furniture, much like the steps shown in "Explaining Magic", but some manage to pull it off and some just can't.

Perhaps the signage in the highway, is the best example, and we still get lost. And this trend will always continue. There is no right or wrong. Just like the water trick, something can be made to be true and maybe if that piece of illustration circulated in the NY Times for once at least, many people would believe that it is achievable, even though they try and fail in doing so. Many times it also depends upon the authority that gives us information. Its something like the alien figures portrayed in ET or other Spielberg movies. Whenever we think of aliens we think that green thing with a large head and big bold black eyes. Now has anybody ever seen the alien? I doubt it. But somebody portrayed aliens to be like that, and it was repeated, and modified and plagiarized and now, when anybody thinks of aliens, we all picture it to be the same thing. Isn't it question worthy? Something that none of us has actually seen in real life, but then, everybody pictures it to be the same ! ! ! Now that is what i call EFFECTIVE and SUCCESSFUL disinformation design.

real or unreal

I found reading chapter 1 very informative for how images and photographs fail to indicate a sense of the size of an object. I find myself creating the 'right' size for what I'm seeing. Like with the Lichtenstein piece, without reading the caption and seeing the artist on the ladder I had assumed that the piece was like 3 x 8 ft. I guess its like my mind playing a magic trick on me.
It's weird because magic is tricking the eye, making the unreal seem real, which is really what is going on with the photos of most art work, but they are real and the photos are making them unreal.

I think it is starting to make sense

When I was reading Tufte's book, I finally realized what possibilities I can do to make these upcoming projects can work. Along with reading this book, I am also researching and when I was reading both at the same time (not literally) I started to picture the approaches I can take.

Chapter 1 was interesting seeing all the maps, charts, etc. come alive in 2-D or 3-D format. When to execute, it all comes down to the grid. It did not matter if the grid was non-existence but there is a starting point and it leads to where we are in the end. It did not have to be obvious. Look at Humphry Repton, Designs for the Pavillon, there is not a grid but there are three people holding a ten foot poll in three different locations. The grid is the center of any layout whethere it is visible or not.

Chapter 3 was also interesting. I never would think that magic was the center of creating an illusion (just kidding). This is what I found interesting. Going back to the first post of creating a classification map and mocking it, it really is the same thing here. Magic is an illusion and so is our creativity. We see things that are not in reality there but we say they are and thus people start believing in it. I am not saying this because I watched the Ghost Hunters marathon on SciFi before I started writing this.

I really liked the six points about retaining your projected audience. It is similar to what you learn in business school, but the difference is if you keep bombarding your audience with information they will keep listening to you and eventually understand what you are saying.

This is starting to make more sense as I start reading more and more. Both with required reading and research. I think I now know what I want to do with the projects.

Hand me that towel, please.

 Before I begin, I have to say I was a little disappointed with some of the information provided by the book.  It was completely misleading, and I am thoroughly embarrassed for putting my faith in a certain pictorial instruction.  I'm talking about the instructions on page 54 - the "Two Amusing Water Tricks."  I tried 50 to 60 times to pull a glass up while twisting, leaving the water standing (which apparently works about 80% of the time), but ended up getting soaked each time.  Now my hardwood countertop is stained, and my pride soaked with deceit.  Fortunately, the "cutting the water and making a loop" trick worked on my first try.  In fact, it flowed for a solid five minutes on the table by itself.  One for one ain't bad, my friends.

On a more serious note, I found the book to be fascinating.  I was especially intrigued by the term "Disinformation Design."  As quoted in the book, "To create illusions is to engage in disinformation design, to corrupt optical information, to deceive the audience.  Thus the strategies of magic suggest what not to do if our goal is truth-telling rather than illusion-making."  This is fascinating, indeed.  If disinformation is the equivalent of deception, than information is the equivalent of being as accurate and truthful as possible.  This leads me to believe that the most important aspect of information design is to be as clear, concise, and complete in getting the truth across.  It is more important to add the necessary details, notes, and additives that help the "audience" understand more fully than it is to clutter that space with neat looking designs or unneeded, extraneous information.  I believe that when, and only when a message is at its most precise state (as intended by the designer or person giving the information), can the actual design or "look" of the chart or map take priority.

"Work before play," my dad used to say.

I also found chapter two to be equally interesting.  That stupid Broad Street pump.  I'll stick to bottled water, thank you. 

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Tufte Is Deep

I finally picked up the book today and I must say WOW, I am blown away. Chapters one and two clearly illustrate the scrutiny and examination of two-dimensional displays. Throughout learning especially, I have come across many a drawings for educational and quantitive purposes. I have been subjected to good and bad illustrations. I remember being frustrated with the bad, as it was usually bad due to lack of labeling or was confusing in general.

Some points to be mentioned from chapter one include photographed art and its scaling, as well as misrepresentation in illustrations. I thought it was interesting that Tufte brought up the topic of art being photographed and later the scaling and how it affects the original art. This is commonly discussed in Art History classes, as the photos can be deceiving. The whole meaning behind a piece can be altered or even lost due to incorrect or misleading scale. I also took note of Tufte's comments on the misrepresentation of images. I agree with the author and believe it is important to not only show designs/redesigns but also to show the original source along side it, as a bibliography of sorts. I think this is key because it lets the viewer decide if the design suits the source and information.

In chapter two, I saw how difficult it could be to display three-dimensional acts on paper. Again, I was amazed at how closely the illustrations were examined. I feel that the topic and information was interesting, but the amount of text was cumbersome. Mainly, what I gathered was that just as in magic there are tricks to illustrating.

Again, the book blows me away and I enjoy flipping through. I was very amused by the flaps and old feel to it.

Chapters IN Focus

I found chapters 1 and 3 to be quite interesting. They presented some good information on paying attention to details that I think we should all be aware of as we start to design the imagery for our systems. Chapter 1 was a bit more helpful in giving background into the wide range of ways we can use visual information to present all sorts of information, as well as the visual elements that should be combined with those visualizations in order for all the viewers to understand fully what is being depicted.(The developing storm example) Chapter 3 was interesting as it talked about how to illustrate accurately, the "magic lessons" was less pertinent in a way, but I suppose one must know how to do the trick in order to understand what is trying to be depicted in the illustrations. The supporting information in chapter 3 was very useful to consider when illustrating anything.

On a side note:
I found chapter 2 to be of interest as well beacuse my system deals with data that could be taken and portrayed in some of the same ways as the Cholera outbreak Map.

Overall it was a good read when combined with thinking about how to illustrate my own system.