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Good old fashioned detail*

Categories: Useful/interesting

Mad Men. What a show.

There aren't many (any?) other TV programmes this good and, I think, what I find especially exceptional about it is the incredible attention to detail that's been put into making everything appear authentic and absolutely of its time. The very first episode kicks off in 1960 and everything looks, sounds and feels like 1960. It is 1960.

Or is it …

Recently, Kris pointed me in the direction of a piece written by designer Mark Simonson about the (mainly anachronistic) use of typography in the show; it's a great read if you're into Mad Men and type design.

I put together this graphic using some of the typefaces mentioned in the piece, showing the dates each were actually designed.

Oh; whoops!

So, perhaps there's not quite as much scrutiny about every single designed detail as I'd first thought – but it's certainly not going to ruin my enjoyment of the show and really, who's going to notice, eh?

*aka 'Designers are an observant bunch'.

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.

First impressions

Categories: Extra-curricular, Superinterns, Useful/interesting

As it's back-to-school time, we've been thinking about learning here at Supercool HQ.

Whether it's a second-year student on a work-shadowing placement, an intern with us for four months as part of their course or simply someone who's unfamiliar with some of the design terms agencies use but interested to find out what they mean; we like to be useful and help folks learn. It's good for us too as we always learn something new along the way.

We get sent umpteen CVs every month requesting placements, jobs or portfolio surgeries, all of which we respond to – and within our replies we also like to include some helpful feedback when we can. The problem is that this takes time; and much of that time we find ourselves repeating the same or similar advice, which struck us as a bit daft.

The solution? Some sort of repository which houses the most frequently handed-out hints and tips; somewhere useful we can direct people so we don't find ourselves repeating the same or similar things; something that's accessible to not only the people who contact us but others too.

Initially the project was called Hello Folio (named by Sarah Carter) but the Hello Digital festival started up in Birmingham later that year, so we decided the name had better change. And so Yoo-hoo was born; advice on saying hello to design agencies and making a good first impression.

We've had a number of people contribute to Yoo-hoo so far (including design professionals, students and recent graduates) in an attempt to ensure it's as useful, meaningful and relevant as possible to those it's aimed at helping.

Most recently we crowdsourced advice on how best to approach design agencies from a range of local designers and used their feedback to create a top ten of hints and tips.

We hope this is just the beginning for Yoo-hoo and have lots of plans for the site's development; so in actual fact we may not have saved ourselves any time at all. Oops.

Still, the result should be the sort of thing that would've helped us when we were just starting out, so we're sure it'll be useful to upcoming designers – and we can at least feel all warm and fuzzy inside for having done our bit to help.

Folks who've been involved with Yoo-hoo so far: Caroline Archer; Sarah Carter; James Coleman; Keith Dodds; Clare Godson; Kristian Kaupang; Tina Loekke Leth; Ning Liu; John Newbold; Katie Parry; Aliya Tariq.

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.