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Design exploits …

Categories: Data design, Inspiration, Useful/interesting

After writing a quick post about the visualisation of data not long ago, it's been stuck in my head, niggling at my brain.

Data visualisation is really interesting to me. Not solely on account of it being efficient (and I do like efficiency) but because conveying facts and figures in an engaging, digestible and, yes, nice-looking way is in many ways the perfect design challenge.

Affording Healthcare by Camille Kubie
Affording Healthcare by Camille Kubie

You have fixed information to work with and essentially the same brief/problem each time: (accurately) make complex data clear, understandable, and interesting; make the most of it, I suppose.

So, when Paul Bradshaw tweeted a link about data visualisation for journalists, I got curious and had a squizz.

The site visualizing.org has been set up as an open resource for journalists and a place where designers can go to get data to visualise. And it's all free – no payment is required for using the graphics.

The Worst Oil Spills in History by Gavin Potenza
The Worst Oil Spills in History by Gavin Potenza

After a quick look-through, it seems the data's fairly USA-centric and there are a few glitches on the site – but it generally appears to be a pretty interesting and useful resource; in terms of both the visualisations and data, but also as a bit of a push to think more about how infographics can be used.

It's got me thinking anyway.

Fetching facts

Categories: Data design, Useful/interesting

Visualisation of this blog post made using wordle.net

When we decided to revamp our website, the very first consideration was; content. What exactly are we going to populate the site with?

New case studies? Definitely. More about some of our extra-curricular projects? Of course. But also, a better explanation of what it is we do and what it is we care about. And that's where it got tricky.

After countless drafts and redrafts, false starts and random notes, we were left with a load of blurb to explain what Supercool's all about … but in a convoluted, wordy, complicated, no-one's-going-to-read-all-this format.

"How can we use this and have it be useful? Arrrrgh! Oh, hang on; let's make a Wordle. Yay!" is pretty much how it went.

Wordle takes prose and makes it into (usually) pretty word clouds, with the most frequently used words the biggest. A very good way to get a general, digestible overview from lots of wordy, essay-length notes.

There are plenty of excellent information visualisation tools out there, some of our favourites being: Wordle, of course; Spezify, which takes your keyword/s and shows you copy, images and links related to it; Google Charts, which visualises HTML data and makes charts; this nameless thing which visualises the structure of websites … ummm, and there must be loads more. What've I missed?!

Our Supercool Wordle's housed on the About page, and the one pictured here is made from this very blog post. So, hooray for visualised data – oh, and if you like prettified statistics, you'll love Information is Beautiful.

Keeping it simple for 57 years

Categories: Data design

Thanks to Google's oft-changing logo, I discovered that today is the 57th anniversary of the barcode being patented.

Over those years this machine-readable graphic representation of data has morphed into various forms (a recent case-in-point being the Japanese-designed QR code) but the most ubiquitous example in the UK remains – well, a load of vertical black lines.

For me it's a fine example of simple, practical and understated design. (Apologies if the above image makes your eyes go a bit funny …)